In my earlier post analyzing the navigation menus of 50 US Senate campaign websites, we learned about the importance of a user’s expectations and meeting those expectations:
“Usability suffers when a site fails to meet users’ expectations.”
Now here are five practical steps for improving a campaign website’s usability by meeting expectations:
Make the link to your donation page the last item in the navigation menu.
In my earlier analysis, I found that 86% of the websites surveyed placed the donation navigation link at the end of the menu. Users expect the contribute button to be in the upper right hand corner of a political website — the last position. And remember:
“The more severely a design diverges from user expectations, the worse the damage.”
Having the donate button in a location that differs from a user’s expectation for a political website makes it harder to donate — the exact opposite of what you want to do.
Use common, descriptive words for your navigation menu
Over half of the terms used in senate campaign website navigation menus were unique to just one website, meaning that a user would not see that term in the navigation of another campaign website.
I also found that the websites surveyed used 11 different terms to describe a volunteer sign up page: Volunteer, Get Involved, Take Action, Join Us, Action, Connect, Join the Fight, etc. “Volunteer” is the most common, used 21 times.
If you use a term that is unfamiliar, it can confuse the user and they won’t be sure if it’s the right place to go. Research shows “that people were about twice as likely to complete a task successfully if they got their first click right, than if they got it wrong” (source).
Make use of your analytics to improve your navigation menu
For me, Google Analytics and Google Webmaster Tools are critical in optimizing a website’s navigation.
- Google Analytics User Flow gives you a visualization of how users navigate through your website. You want them to get to where they’re going as quickly as possible so see if you can optimize the navigation menu to assist in this goal.
- Google Search queries help you understand what actions real users are trying to take on your site.
Optimize your navigation menu
By using an A/B or multivariate testing tool like Optimizely, you can zero in on the right words and styles for your navigation menu. Some tests you can run include:
- Does “Contribute” or “Donate” get more donations?
- Will more people sign up with “Volunteer” or “Get Involved?”
- Would a red “Donate” button raise more than a green one?
Don’t try and solve problems with navigation menus
The navigation menu can’t fix all of your website’s usability issues — nor can it solve your campaign’s communications challenges. For example, if you’re facing negative attacks, the solution is rarely to put a link to a response document in your navigation and forget about it. Use an integrated response plan that includes earned media, paid media (online and off), and communication with your supporters to really fight an attack.
Your campaign website’s navigation menu is about helping your supporters find their way.