Once you’ve selected your theme, colours and added your logo to your web site its time to have a think about how you’re going to place things on your site. Some of these decisions would have been made when selecting your theme, though a lot of the modern themes available these day allow you a lot of customisation when it come to place of things like your menu and sidebars.
Watch Your Head
Starting at the top there’s the decision of having a horizontal or vertical header, both have their own advantages and disadvantages. So in the end what you have displayed there will greatly determine your choice. When working out what to display in your header, you need to have a think about what information is important enough to be front and centre on every page of you’re site. A given, is your business logo, but the size and position is another thing all together, to the left or front and centre. If your business sells either a product or a service it’s a good idea to display your direct contact details, i.e. telephone number and email.
Does social media have a prominent position in your businesses web strategy? Then add the relevant links to your header. If you have a Facebook page but don’t actively use it to promote your business, place the link on your About page or in the footer. Don’t place it in the header just because everyone else does, you’ll just start cluttering things up.
For those web sites that have a membership area, maybe have the login form in the header, instead of a link to the login form and once logged on display information that is useful to them.
Selling products? Add a “micro” cart that just displays the number of items the customer has in it and maybe the dollar total as well.
The point of the header is to allow the user to get important information quickly, so best to keep it clean, clear and simple.
What’s On The Menu?
As the amount of content on your website grows what your have on your main menu and the way you organize it becomes of more importance. Though if you structure your content correctly, which I’ll go through in another article, the 2 decisions you’ll need to make are what are the main pages you want front and centre of your website and what will their order be.
To answer the former, the easiest way to choose, is ask your self which pages answer the greatest 4 questions; The Who, What, Where and Why? Or to make it more clear for web content; the about page, your product and services page, contact and location page, company news (blog) page.
As for the order that really depends if you like it shaken or stirred, though I normally go for, What you Sell, Who Your Are, Why Choose You and finally Where to contact/find you.
If you have organised your content into categories and subcategories, you may want to have your categories in your main menu and your sub categories as a sub menu. I suggest stopping at having 1 level of sub menus, even if you have sub-sub categories. As it can get annoying chasing the rabbit down the hole, only to have the mouse fall off the menu and need to start again.
Filtered In The Sidebar
It’s once you start having multiple levels of subcategories for your product and services or company articles that the use of the sidebar becomes important. As this is where your may want to display the entire structure of your content to the user. Especially when you give the user the option to use cascading menus or filter content by requirements.
If you’re displaying the sidebar on article pages, you can also use this space to display other relevant information, like a quick bio on the author or related articles and categories. Using something like Custom Sidebar Pro will give you the option to have different sidebar layouts on different pages, you can also do this by customising your theme if you’re that way inclined. “Cough …Use Child themes …. Cough”
Just remember that not all pages require additional menu’s and information, when that is the case use the entire width of your page for the content, because in the end you are wanting the site visitor to be focused on your content, not where else to go.
Spend time on the Flow
Its a good idea to spend a bit of time trying different layouts to ensure that your content flows through out your website. As if you make it easy for a site visitor to digest more content of your site the more chance there is that they will purchase you products and service. If you get down to 1 or 2 layouts that you like there are plugins that will allow you to do A/B testing to see which gives you the better click through and conversion rate. Just remember when you make a few changes to go through your website again to see check out the lay of the land and see how it flows.
Till next time,