With Navigation, Less Is More

The state of navigational links on blogs is getting out of hand. If you’re blog’s purpose is to make money, why do we insist on distracting our readers with hundreds of useless links?

Your blog should guide your reader to where she wants to go, or to allow her to discover where she wants to go. By placing huge lists of links in side navigation, or cramming the bottom of your posts with social bookmarking javascript links, you only make it harder for her complete her task.

Make Choices Simple

Give a child 2 things, and ask them to choose one. Now give them 5 things, and do the same. Now try it with 7. What generally happens, and i speak from experience, is the child gets confused by the choices, and quite often actually upset by not being able to choose.

Hopefully your readers are a bit more sophisticated than my 11mt old, but you see my point right? This works with anything: It’s easier to make a choice, if there are fewer items to choose from.

The Problem with Blogs

With blogs, i think there are two major problems:

  1. Template designers and blog systems have too many features — too busy playing catch up with competitors to realize their design choices are stupid.
  2. Bloggers get to make those choices. Im not saying bloggers per se are stupid, what im getting at, is the fact that faced with a lot of choices, an easy choice to make, is all of them!

Bloggers can be forgiven for not being design guru’s, im not one, and i doubt you are either. But template “designers” need to take a long hard look at design 101 and start producing templates that actually help readers, not overload bloggers with choices.

Some Things are Just Stupid

Let’s assume your blog’s purpose, or at least one of them, is to make you money. So we’re not talking about you livejournalers out there, or little jimmy’s cat blog, we’re talking about a website where every little decision you take can change the income you derive from that site.

Here’s some of the things i think in the above scenario are just plain stupid:

1. Blogrolls

Problem: People are getting used to blogs, sure, but they still expect a sidebar to be full of category navigation and contact details. Why the hell would a list of your favorite sites be a good candidate for that prime piece of real estate?

Solution: Put one link in your side navigation to a dedicated page of your favorite resources — hint: Make it a really great list of links, and it will add real value and attract links all by itself.

2. Archives

Problem: Again we find something utterly useless to most people taking up prime space on your blog and distracting/confusing your readers. This may have been all well and good 4yrs ago, before you started to try and make money on your blog, but now it’s just a waste of good space.

Solution: Create an archive page, if you must. Place one link to it from your side navigation. Use Categories as prime side navigation instead, people get it, and it’s not confusing.

3. Links at Bottom of Posts

Problem: It’s that whole “going overboard” thing again. There just isnt any need for a dozen different links at the bottom of every page. Contrary to what you might think, they are not helpful to most readers.

Solution: Decide what you do and don’t need. This depends largely on your audience. At performancing we think most of our readers are smart enough to be able to quickly copy a url and paste it into their email client, so no “tell a friend” for us. We also think many will have a bookmarklet or browser extension that helps them use things like del.icio.us – no need for one of those either then. You see my point right?

Try and chop that list of links down as much as possible.

4. Widgets and Gizmos

Problem: “Web2.0” is all very fun, but let’s face it, most of it is a useless bunch of drivel — putting these silly little mapping widgets, or social gizmos on a site that’s purpose is to make money is just moronic. Save that shit for personal sites, not businesses.

Solution: Realize that you don’t have to jump on every silly trend Steve Rubel posts about and that you actually have an opportunity here to really make something to be proud of. Make it simple, make it clean, and above all, make it pay!

Rant Over

Phew… as you can tell, that one’s been a long time coming heh! I do hope it makes some sense though, because really, the state of blog navigation is atrocious on the whole, and if making money is your goal, you really do need to avoid “feature creep” in navigation.

3 thoughts on “With Navigation, Less Is More

  1. I am not quite sure about the blogroll links page though. If a person/company is trying to set up some valuable link swaps with blogs that compliment their own, they might have trouble convincing folks. I think this would be especially true if the links page had low PR or if the other blog would be placing them on a blogroll which is a much more desirable position then what the other blog is offering.

    I don’t see any problem with giving up some prime real estate if you are getting a decent amount of traffic in return.

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