Occasionally, we still hear from Extension faculty or staff worried about people not being able to find things on the website. Extension does have a lot of content on the site, and we do care what audiences think. This year EESC will continue our work on website usability and use analytics to help improve the visitor experience. Yet, the design solutions may not be what you thought, and focusing on content may be a better approach.
Where you can worry less: the changing design trends
Forget the “three-click rule.” The idea that web visitors will get frustrated if they have to click more than three times to find a piece of content has been around for the last couple of decades. Logically, it makes sense, but how many times they click doesn’t matter(1) and can make for unruly menus. What matters is each time they click, the page should deliver something to get them closer to an intended goal.
Also, our home page isn’t as important as you think. Visitors to our website are less likely to land on our home page than in the past – approximately 3% of visitors. This is a common trend happening across all websites. Search engines and social media are a big factor, as they will link to whatever page is relevant on our site. People go to a page of interest and don’t see the homepage.
A greater focus on organized, well-titled content and landing pages (vs. home page and navigation) can give you more visitor retention opportunities.
What to focus on: the content most asked for or that meets your goals
Give people the good stuff upfront when it comes to landing pages. What do they often ask about? Feature it prominently anywhere on the page, and then direct them to related content that may be less intriguing but still critical information. EESC can work with you on how to surface these top tasks.
One Nielsen Norman Group study(2) found that, like general web readers, the professionals we also serve want content easy to scan and digest. They differ in that most are looking for detailed facts, verifying the credibility, and comparing data or related findings. Overstating outcomes or having out-of-date content diminishes credibility.
Two types of information particularly attract their attention:
- New information that they haven’t considered or heard of
- Contradictory information that is contrary to their existing knowledge or beliefs
This may be one reason a web article, Branding: OSU working to settle the debate of the ages, surpassed others in the high number of pageviews recently.
Do you have emerging research to share on a long-standing issue or trending topic? Share with your content team to get their input and then add as an article online. Web visitors can leave you feedback on the article, and then you could potentially develop the article further into a catalog publication or journal submission.
After reading these popular articles on the Extension website, the majority of people then leave the site. What action would you want visitors to take or what could they read next to further their engagement? How can we work together to improve that?
If you find when looking at the new analytics dashboards that a piece of your content does not reach people as hoped, then let’s look into it. What can we try with the content or on the landing pages, or in the promotion of it, to help? Also, assess your goals (e.g. attracting new participants) and ask how your online content can help to better meet them.
These actions keep content, and the related strategy, at the center of what we should be worrying about on the website, and helps us to better support people in our online communities.
Extension website updates
Are people still having trouble finding information online? Tell us on our beav.es/extension-support form (click the last option).
Newsletters now have a button link that goes to a “past issues” page, so the list on the main page only shows the 6 most recent issues. This will happen automatically once you reach more than six back issues.
Want to see who all the members are of a specific content team? What about contacting all web group leaders, or reaching out to a specific member of your web group? You will be able to do this now through the content management system when logged into the website. Just look for the link to this on your My Groups page.