The way we navigate, Search vs. URL

We had an interesting team discussion regarding the relative importance of the homepage vs. content pages in driving traffic to the site. It opened up a few great questions:

  1. How do people navigate? Do they type the URL or use the search to find a site, not bothering with the URL.
  2. For a professional organization offering 20 – 30 different services, is it realistic to drive people to one page (the home page) and have them find the appropriate content from there or should we reverse the paradigm and try to get them to specific content pages and then allow them to navigate up and explore the rest?


URL vs. Search

When you look for a site, do you type the full URL of the site (www and all) or do you just type the main terms and look through the search results?


My answer will be “It depends”. Short, simple URLs I type, while more complex ones I don’t bother.

Two interesting recent articles talk about a worldwide shift to search based navigation:

In Japan, ads are starting to use search terms instead of full URL. As the article title says: URL’s are totally out.

Josh, at ReadWriteWeb wrote this week that The URL Is Dead, Long Live Search detailing a similar shift in advertising and use of the web by users.


Flipping the tree

If search is increasingly the preferred mode of navigation, where users land on the site will depends on the keyword used and whether they were placed correctly on the content pages or put solely on the home page. Which one is better?

We think that relevancy is the key. While it may be good for branding to have users always go to the homepage, the specific content they were searching for, resides at the leaf and directing traffic to the leaves was the goal of the home page to begin with.

Each leaf needs to behave as a landing page providing sufficient branding and clear navigation that will allow users to continue and explore up the tree.


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