by Alan Kravitz

When I was in London recently, I noticed something odd whenever I crossed a busy street. I’d look down, and there, in humongous bold letters, would be painted signs warning me to LOOK LEFT or LOOK RIGHT. How strange, I thought. Don’t the good people of this city realize that most people know quite well how to cross the street?

So I ignored these “silly” signs – and nearly got hit by a car. I discovered – almost the hard way – that there’s crossing the street; and then there’s crossing the street in London, where cars have an uncanny ability to come from out of nowhere, and drivers feel absolutely no need whatsoever to stop for some poor bloke who didn’t read the signs. Suddenly, these directions made sense to me. And I was grateful for them, because of the many sites I wanted to see in London, a hospital was not on my list.

All of this got me thinking about websites. (Yeah, its a little strange to be thinking about that after I was nearly laid flat on the ground. But hey, I’m in marketing, so that’s where my mind goes.) I’ve lost count of the times I’ve landed on website, and I have no idea where I should go. Ironically, this usually results not from too little information, but from too much. Like cars in London coming at me from G-d knows where, I’m bombarded with links here, and snippets there. Sure, I can go where I want – IF I take the time to investigate the site. But in cyberland, this is a big if.

On those London streets, my impulse was to cross quickly to get where I was going. I usually feel that way when I’m on websites, too. But when I’m on a website with no clear sense of direction, I have no idea what the organization’s top priorities are – a huge turn-off in an age where quick information is a must. I mean, they actually expect me to take my precious time and dig for those priorities. The nerve!

That’s why the most successful websites are ones that are as well directed as they are well designed. They include copy and fonts that immediately clue the reader to what’s hot and important. And they include multiple links and entry points for pages with important information.

Don’t assume that readers know where to go, just because they’ve landed on your home page – or on any page of your site, for that matter. (Remember that with increasing use of search engine optimization, more people are skipping home pages altogether.) Website content should be updated and refreshed as often as possible, with copy that guides readers without talking down to them. The city planners of London realized that without their signs, there’d be a lot more carnage on their streets. While a poorly directed website won’t cause bodily harm (save maybe for some folks banging their heads or fists in frustration) it could very well cause major breaks and fractures to your bottom line.

How well-directed is your website?

Alan Kravitz has been writing for, and listening to, the Jewish community for more than 15 years – in good times and not-so-good times. His company, The Infinite Inkwell, specializes in writing web and print copy for Jewish organizations throughout the United States. Alan occasionally shares his thoughts with our eJewish Philanthropy community.

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