Return to Blog Home Page

09 November 2007

Traffic Pattern Analysis

Our house sits in a neighborhood between two major thoroughfares. And as long as both are fully functional we're good. But the other day they decided to shut one down to repair a railroad crossing. Big problems...

Sure it's great now - smooth sailing - you can take the tracks at 60mph! But during that week our lives were seriously disrupted. On the remaining through way you could expect traffic problems. Lines of cars backed up behind red lights that are too close together and not synced well for the increased traffic. You know the type - where at least three cars enter the intersection only to get stuck there and keep the other direction of traffic stopped during their green light. Good times...

But at least it gave me the idea and a list of questions for this post:

  • Do we think about the traffic patterns on our sites?
  • Are we routing people well?
  • Do we have a reason for the way we set up our navigation?
  • Do we have "rules" about how deep our sites go in terms of page clicks?
  • If so, do we document it well and promote it ongoing?

At Granger, there was a turning point a few years back (2004-2005) where we went from "not so worried about it" to "this needs to become our main filter" for all future development. Kem Meyer, Communications Director at Granger explains it this way: Less Clutter. Less Noise. In this 2005 post you can feel the storm coming :)

So during our big development year (2005) we asked the hard questions and made the difficult decisions that stripped the site down to the essentials and in turn created simple and effective traffic flow.

This is an incomplete example of the way you could document the traffic (navigational) structure of your site. From the graphic you can see that there are four big things we focus on: The weekly venues, events, volunteering and groups. There are other menu picks but they are made less visible and are just there so you can get anywhere on the site quickly.

I broke out the Events link to show you what you will find if you go there. The Events Page is a "component" or sub-section of the site with it's own navigation. This does two things. First, it gives you that good feeling that you are only a click away from the home page. And second, it gives you more content than one page can while you are there.

The Volunteer Page works the same way - one click to get there, but eight options inside the "component" to get you the info you need.

Simply put:
  • Drive them to the home page - not individual pages
  • The less clicks the better - anything more than two or three clicks starts to get frustrating
  • The website doesn't need to tell them everything
  • Move the "big stuff" to the home page (there is a link to watch our weekend message directly off the home page - because it is the second most visited page on the site)
  • Use the "you are here" concept or breadcrumbs - people feel more comfortable when they know where they are
  • Yes there are more - but I'll stop here...