Has Your Website Grown Into a Dead-End Maze? (And What to Do About It)

Scenario One:
A visitor is searching for information on your website. She clicks on what she thinks is the right section, finds some interesting stuff, drills down another level . . . but it’s a dead end. She hits the back button, lands two levels up and can’t find the path she was following. So she leaves.

Scenario Two:
There’s a wealth of good content your site, but it’s scattered all over the place. Your visitor picks one path, finds part of what he’s searching for, then realizes that some related info is cross-linked to another section. He follows that route but ends up on a path to nowhere and can’t find his way back. So he leaves.

I’ve been consulting on a number of websites like this recently—well conceived when they were built several years ago. But as the organizations grew, the websites grew, too—organically, without a real plan.

The result: a maze of a site that hides valuable information amidst a lot of other content that you and your stakeholders think is important and essential, but no longer serves the needs of your target audience.

The consequence: a drop in your conversion rate, because visitors won’t stick around long enough to answer your call to action.

Taking Your Site from a Maze to Amazing
If your website has become an unwieldy labyrinth, it’s difficult to wrangle it back into shape. In most cases, the site has probably been up long enough that it’s time to plan the next version.

This doesn’t mean that you have to scrap all of your content and start from scratch. But it does mean taking the time to reevaluate your strategic goals for the site, define your ideal client and evaluate your site content in terms of how it’s meeting those goals and serving your client’s needs.

You need to determine what your client is searching for, how to chunk that information into logical hierarchies and how to arrange the visual display so that it’s easy for your client to find what she’s looking for. Don’t rely on the collective wisdom within your organization, or you’ll end up trapped in a maze of insider politics. You need to survey your target audience, conduct interviews or focus groups, and listen closely.

An Effective Website is a Resource for Problem-Solving
Of course, you’ll need to gain buy-in from your stakeholders—welcoming their input in the planning process while helping them to understand that an effective website is not a showcase for everyone’s work or pet priorities, but a resource for helping your clients solve problems.

Taking your website from a maze to amazing is an investment. It takes time, thought and a willingness to listen hard to your clients and jettison anything that’s not relevant. But it’s also an exciting opportunity to revisit the reasons you got into this work in the first place—and ensure that your website is helping the people you want to reach.

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