This lands in the brain as “why didn’t I think of that”. A long time writer both of non-fiction and technical writing, on paper and computer, I adore indexes. I’ve created many of them within my word processor and think of them whenever I’m doing a book. Why didn’t I think of doing one on my website? Brain fart.
In Digital Web Magazine, Heather Hedden takes us all to task in her article, A-Z Indexes to Enhance Site Searching.
An important part of an information architect’s job is to make it easier for users of a Web site or intranet to find the information they want. Usually the focus is on site navigation—the site’s structural design, hierarchy, page titles and labels, menu design, site map, and so on.
Another way to address making information on a website easy to find is through search functionality. What’s the difference? Navigation means finding one’s way around and learning the layout of the site. Searching means finding a desired bit of information as efficiently as possible. A good site should support the search needs of users, not just the navigation needs.
Hedden examines how a search engine and search feature is critical to help visitors navigate your site, but it isn’t the only solution. In fact, it might not be the best solution.
Think about it. While you may be young enough to think “search engine” when you want to find information, but a lot of people think table of contents and indexes for finding the information we want on a specific website. We know how to find the websites via search engines, but finding the information on a website is often more challenging.
I adore the site map on my main site generated with a much tweaked “Narchives” WordPress Plugin highlighted in my WordPress Resources list. Unfortunately, unless you know how to dig into the PHP, or someone finally fixes and updates this brilliant WordPress Plugin (do you hear pleading and begging yet?), and using WordPress.com, you are stuck with a do-it-yourself site map and/or index.
Yes, there are other WordPress Plugins that generate post lists and table of contents, but I haven’t found one that compares with the brilliant usability of Narchives. Besides, WordPress.com bloggers have no access to such awesome plugins.
I’m not done working on the site map on this blog, and when I’m done I’ll tell you how I put it all together, but all of you think about how important it is that you help users find the information they need on your blog. Take Hedden’s advice seriously. The more you help people find your content and find the specific information they need, the more likely they are to hang around, and more importantly, return.