Mega Menus

Navigation has always been a design problem for large websites. Mega drop-down menus are a growing trend in web design that structures navigation choices through layout, typography, and sometimes icons.

 

Mega menus can greatly improve navigation and usability on sites that involve a lot of pages or products. With mega drop-down menus, a visitor can see all their choices at once. For bigger sites with many features, regular drop-down menus typically hide a lot of your site’s content. You can scroll, but this becomes confusing and hides a number of choices at any given point in the navigation process. Mega menus show everything at a glance and through grouping, allows your visitors to visualize the relationships among items on your site. CSS-only dynamic drop-downs are possible, but they don’t offer mouse over/out latency or work in every browser.

 

While mega menus can make it easier for users to find the information they’re looking for deep within a site, a vast number of links can also overwhelm some visitors. Mega menus can help streamline the navigation process by allowing you to group menu items. Chunk options into related sets using concise, yet descriptive labels for each group. Try not to offer huge groups of options that require a lot of time to scan. At the same time, don’t make the groups so small that the menu has an overabundance of groups that your users have to spend time understanding.

 

Just because you can put everything in a mega menu doesn’t necessarily mean you should. The standard usability guideline to “keep it simple” also applies to mega menus. Avoid GUI widgets and other interface elements that involve a lot of interaction. Mega drop-downs are temporary – They appear on hover or click so shouldn’t replace dialog boxes, which should be used for more complex interactions. Even though mega menus have the room to support many options, it’s best to try not to overload your users.

 

From a design standpoint, mega menus can look great and allow you to further express your brand’s personality and creativity. These drop-down menus are a design canvas! They eliminate unnecessary scrolling and offer additional elements such as typography, icons and tooltips to help guide users to the content they came for.

 

Mega menus are common on e-commerce sites because they typically include many categories of products. They’re also useful on other large websites where fewer clicks should be necessary to get to a specific page. Mega menus allow visitors to reach the content they’re looking for no matter where they are on your site.

 

Your site may benefit from a mega menu if:
  • You manage a large number of products (eCommerce sites like REI)
  • You publish and manage a lot of content (content aggregators and news sites like Reuters)
  • You have complex service offerings requiring a lot of supporting content (large association sites, higher education sites like Cornell, government sites like The White House)
  • Your site is information-oriented, diverse, and you offer a lot of long-form web copy

 

You probably don’t need a mega menu if:
  • Your site is small without too much content (small businesses, restaurants)
  • You have fewer pages and focused content
  • Your site is dedicated to a singular function, such as a tool or online calculator

 

Be warned: The increased ability to navigate a site will come at a tradeoff on the SEO front. Too many navigation links in a mega menu may dilute your site’s overall page rank. Google assigns a PageRank score based on the number and quality of links pointing to a webpage. A site’s internal link structure transfers PageRank throughout the site. When you distribute a site’s PageRank in a “broad” way, you dilute the page’s ability to rank competitively in the SERPs. Sites with weaker trust and authority metrics will suffer more than established sites with strong authority and trust metrics. Shoot for 100 links or less, but keep in mind that there are occasions where the SEO hit will be worth it.

 

Navigation has a huge impact on your website’s usability and appearance, so make sure you have the right menu for your site’s content, layout and visitors. This article features several free and premium WordPress plugin options that can help you create a responsive menu, or make your existing navigation compatible with mobile devices.

 

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Not Found? 404 Error Pages

What is a 404 (Not Found) Error page?

A 404 Error Page is essentially a non-existent page that returns a status code of 404. The 404 error is generated whenever a server can’t find the specified page.

 

How do 404 errors occur?

A 404 page can happen for a number of reasons. These reasons fall into two buckets: user errors or website glitches. Either way, an informative 404 page is the most effective solution.

A web server will typically generate a 404 Not Found web page when a user misspells a URL or attempts to follow a broken or dead link. 404 errors also occur when pages have been moved or deleted, the page has expired, or the page was blocked.

To find broken links on your site, check out Google Webmaster Tools (Crawl and Fetch). Here, you can find tools that can scan your entire website for 404 Error pages.

 

Why are 404 Error pages important?

One of the biggest mistakes you could make when you launch a new website is ignoring all of the links, pages, and content from your old website. If Google has Site Links indexed and listed for a website and the navigation menu changes, Google considers these to be broken links. Google will then remove the links and lower the overall ranking of your website in its Search Engine. Any links to your site from other blogs or directories will also break, and you can expect your site to take the hit.

To avoid the headache, make sure to use error pages! Adding 301 Redirects and 404 Error pages can ensure that you don’t lose business because of an upgrade to your site. A 301 Redirect is a permanent redirect which passes between 90-99% of link ranking value to the new page. This is the perhaps the best way to retain online marketing efforts from old websites. If you have redesigned, added or removed content from your site, a custom 404 Error page is essential to direct site visitors to content on your new site when they’re looking for content from your old site.

A customized 404 Error page is an advantage for your site. It can help visitors find the information they were looking for and provides them with a much better overall user experience.

 

What should I include on my 404 Error page?

When a user lands on an error page that doesn’t contain any helpful content, it’s very likely they’ll navigate away from your site. To avoid frustrating site users and losing out on potential business, we recommend developing a custom 404 page.

The typical content a user sees when they reach a 404 Error page is a “page not found” message. This doesn’t provide users when any helpful information or instructions as to where to go from that point. To minimize visitor loss, a good 404 Error page provides a clear, helpful message that informs the user that the page they’re looking for can’t be found and points them in the right direction. You may want to ask the user to re-check the URL they’ve entered.

It’s also recommended that you use an error page that has been designed to look like the rest of your website. Maintain the main navigation menu, logo, fonts and colors. If the 404 page looks drastically different from the rest of your site, the user may become confused and abandon the site all together.

To prevent a visitor from leaving your site, include links or other elements that requires the user to take action. Include a link to your home page in addition to your main navigation menu.  You can also provide a few key links to your most popular categories or pages  on the site. If you have one, feature a link to your site map or search function. This will help the visitor find exactly what they were looking for. Here’s a good example of a 404 Error page with a search function from MailChimp.

To avoid having your 404 Error page appear in Google search results, make sure your webserver returns an actual 404 HTTP status code when a missing page is requested.

It’s also a good practice to ask site users to report a broken link on the 404 Error page so consider including a link to your contact page or email address.

 

Build a better website and stop turning visitors away with your 404 Error pages. To learn more, contact Sanmita today!

 

Let us know what you think of this blog post in the comments section. We’d love to hear from you!

Drupal, Joomla, WordPress, Oh My!

So you’ve decided to create a new website. First of all, congratulations! A web design or redesign project can be a big undertaking and we want to help simplify this process for you by getting one big decision out of the way.

You have a few options when it comes to deciding on a content management system. WordPress, Joomla and Drupal are the three most popular CMS choices online and are all open-source and free to download and use. How will you ever decide? We’ve made it easy for you by comparing these three CMS providers in terms of features, flexibility, capability, and ease-of-use. Below, we take a look at the advantages and disadvantages of each solution:

 

WordPress

Over 68 million websites use WordPress, making it the world’s favorite blogging software. WordPress powers sites like the New York Times, CNN,Forbes and Reuters.

  • Pros
    • User-friendly
    • Can accommodate multiple authors
    • SEO-capable
    • Expansive plugin library
    • Easy to customize
    • Flexible
  • Cons
    • Security – WordPress is often the target of hackers. You will have to install third-party plugins to boost your site’s security.
    • Limited in terms of design options: Even though WordPress is customizable, WordPress sites often look like WordPress sites.
    • Incompatible with older plugins
    • Limited CMS capabilities: You may find that WordPress is incapable of handling a very large volume of content. WordPress is often called a ‘mini CMS.’
  • Recommended use
    • WordPress is perfect for those who manage simple, good-looking sites or blogs with or without multiple authors

 

Joomla

With 50 million downloads to date, Joomla powers sites like cloud.com and linux.com

  • Pros
    • User-friendly
    • Smooth and easy to install
    • Expansive extension library: Joomla extensions are divided into five different categories – components, plugins, templates, modules and languages
    • Content management capable: Joomla is far more capable at managing a large volume of articles than WordPress
    • Robust developer community
  • Cons
    • Brittle codebase makes it difficult to extend or customize your site
    • The learning curve isn’t as steep as with Drupal, but the installation and management process can be intimidating
    • Lacks SEO capability
    • Limited access control (ACL) support
    • Limited to a single level of sections and categories
  • Recommended use
    • Joomla is a great option for consumers and small to mid-tier e-commerce brands. If you want something more powerful for enterprise use, consider Drupal.

 

Drupal

Drupal was created by Dries Buytaert and first released in 2001. This CMS option powers over 763 thousand feature and data-intensive sites like whitehouse.org and data.gov.uk.

  • Pros
    • Extremely Powerful & Flexible: Drupal can do almost anything. It’s easily extendable and there are modules available to customize your site
    • Thousands of modules
    • Offers unlimited article nesting using taxonomy, or by using the Category module
    • Fast: Caching improves the speed and performance of your site
    • Developer-friendly
    • Robust developer community – over 30,000 participants
    • Supports Multi-sites
    • Strong version control and ACL capabilities
    • Stable and scalable: Drupal is enterprise-ready and can be easily scaled to support even the world’s busiest websites
    • SEO-capable
  • Cons
    • Steep learning curve: Drupal requires the most amount of technical skills, so you either have to be dedicated enough to learn, or have a strong team of drupal developers and consultants who can help you with your site. The DrupalAnswers team understands these challenges and can help you get started and be your partner throughout the Drupal journey.
  • Recommended use
    • Drupal is the ideal CMS option for complex and professional sites or any large project where stability, scalability and power are of the upmost importance. If your project requires customization, or finely grained access control – Drupal is what you are looking for.

 

WordPress, Joomla and Drupal vary in terms of features and capabilities. We hope this information helps you to choose the CMS that best fits your requirements! We invite you to contact us with your website or CMS needs and any further questions you may have. We look forward to hearing from you!

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