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What Factor Determines Website Navigation Most?

I was talking to a European client this morning, He was asking me for examples of websites with navigation typical of an American company. While the client was perhaps looking for cultural distinctions, I thought that website navigation was an interesting topic and one that we are asked about often. The subject warrants a series of posts, so for the sake of brevity, this post will present the macro view. For this discussion, I will address the B2B space.

Audience is the key determinant of website navigation. While many B2B companies maintain “brochure-ware websites,” those that simply push product, new marketers put a lot of thought into addressing specific audience needs and providing a more personalized and valuable experience. Understanding your audience and addressing their needs is the gateway to providing the right Information Architecture (IA) and corresponding navigation.

For organizations that sell by solutions, a navigation built around solving business problems can work. If your focus is in specific markets, navigation by industry might be the way to go. Some organizations have different levels of buyer thus a roles-based navigation might be most intuitive. Thought leadership is often a differentiator in B2B companies and can be built into the navigation as well as permeate the site’s content. In many instances, the navigation we design incorporates several of these options simultaneously. The challenge is to provide a choice of pathways for site visitors to access information, yet keep it simple and easy for site visitors to get what is most appropriate for them.

The next few posts will delve into how this can be used to make your site more effective and how we’ve used some of these approaches to enhance the user experience. Stay tuned!