Signposts: Helping Users Navigate Content

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June 03, 2010


\"signposts\"<\/​a> Navigating unfamiliar information on the web requires aids.<\/p>\r\n

These aids don’t have an agenda or bias the way advertising does. Instead, navigational aids<\/strong> help people find the right path based on their interests.<\/p>\r\n

Signposts<\/strong> are one type of navigational aid. They provide the information people need to make their own decisions while searching and surfing the web.<\/p>\r\n

Should a designer worry about a website losing readers? Many websites compete for attention by luring audiences with vibrant illustrations, catchy typography and rich user interfaces.<\/p>\r\n

In addition to being attractive, other websites strive to be useful. The goal of usability isn\u2019t to get attention, but to get repeat visits. Advertising loses readers, in the sense that it directs them to other websites, whereas usability is about making sure they don’t get lost.<\/p>\r\n

Like their real-world counterparts, web-based \u201csignposts\u201d are visual cues that guide people through new territory. In the physical world, people rely on landmarks, maps, signage and lines of sight to find their way through unfamiliar territory.<\/p>\r\n

Online, one goes by descriptive links, navigation bars and headings on the page. Real-world and virtual signposts have the same purpose: to help people find the best path to their destination.<\/p>\r\n


Hyperlinks Are Overlooked Opportunities<\/h1>\r\n

The web wouldn\u2019t work without links. Yet visitors and designers alike often dismiss links as one-time events. Click, load and that\u2019s it. But the right information can turn simple hyperlinks into useful signage that leads visitors to the information they seek.<\/p>\r\n

Hyperlinks are only as meaningful as their clickable text. A poorly crafted link will leave people wondering whether the link is worth a click. The words in and around a link should inform people what the link will do (e.g. redirect them to another page or website, download a file, etc.) and what makes leaving the current page worth their time.<\/p>\r\n

\r\n \u201c

WDD Staff

WDD staff are proud to be able to bring you this daily blog about web design and development. If there’s something you think we should be talking about let us know @DesignerDepot.

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