Design, content, navigation
In one of my previous posts, I asked the question concerning the factors which make modern websites a successful communicative locale. In fact, researchers are still working on finding the answer to it. However, it is possible to narrow it down and, thus, help in replying to it. In my research and conversations with practitioners, I have found three website components which contribute to the communicative efficiency of websites: design, content, and navigation. Metaphorically, design can be compared to the “face” of the website; content to the “brain”; and navigation to the “feet”.
As the “face”, design is usually the first thing that users see and interact with. It is not the only or the most important thing, but without it being appropriate users are more than likely to navigate away to a different website which provides similar information since information is not in deficit on the Web, but attention is. Design, thus, has the function of offering information to users. In other words it makes information more appealing, understandable, and convenient for users.
As the “brain” of the website, content is the most important part of the majority of modern websites. Most often, users visit a particular website precisely because of its content. Even sophisticated design cannot make users rely on and use permanently a website if there is no useful content. Depending on a given website, the function of its content may be to educate, to entertain, or to help users solve their practical tasks.
As the “feet”, navigation fulfills two important functions: first, it ensures that users can easily access to all the content on the site and second, it provides users with all the necessary tools to process/interact with the content (e.g. to post a question, to buy an item, to magnify a picture, etc.), to contact website authors or, possibly, other users (e.g. “contact us” information, chats, forums, etc.).
Lack of attention to any of these elements (even if it is done in favour of another aspect) may reduce the communicative effectiveness of a website. Therefore, any modern website wanting to be a successful communicative locale needs to keep in mind and to work progressively on all three key website aspects: design, content, and navigation.