We all know that confusing website navigation turns visitors away, so we often aim to develop an easy-to-understand navigational structure. But this isn't the solution.
Searchable, Not Navigateable
Every webmaster is working hard to create better navigational structures. Unfortunately, visitors don't care about it. When people come to your site and they become interested in seeing more of your site, they will try searching on your site. (They want information fast, so yes, they do search, not browse.) When they want to search, they expect there to be a search box on the page, and will look for it. A plain and simple search box is way more important than a fancy navigation bar. Add a search box to every page of your site.
Also, don't forget to make your content easy to scan. Scannablity doesn't seem to have anything to do with searchablity. But, while people are searching, they scan the content of pages that come up in the search results, to see if that is what they're looking for. So, scanning is part of the search activity. "Easy to scan" means "easy to search."
Additionally, adding a few links pointing to similar pages will help visitors a lot. Search engines provide very good results these days, but they are not perfect. People will find something very close to what they are looking for through the search engines, but maybe not exactly. Links to similar pages might lead them to exactly the one they are after. The anchor text must describe clearly what the linked pages are all about, though.
© June, 2005