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How can I check my navigation?

If you’re like most companies, you spend a lot of time obsessing over your home page, but maybe not enough time on your destination pages. As a proponent of doing things wrong quickly, I don’t recommend spending hours on each page trying to make it perfect. So, instead, what’s a quick way to check out the information architecture of those pages?

Use Keith Instone’s Navigation Stress test—Keith is the lead information architect for IBM’s Web team. For those of you who are lazy clickers, I have paraphrased the test below.
To start the test, pick any destination page on your site, and print it in black and white all by itself (with nothing else on the page, not even the URL). Then pretend that this is your landing page for your first visit to the Web site, and answer the following questions:

  • What’s this page about?
  • What does each set of links represent?
  • What site is this?
  • What are the major sections of this site?
  • Which section is this page within?
  • What’s one level “up” from this page?
  • How do I get to the top page for this section of the site?
  • How do I get to the site’s home page?
  • How could I get back here from the home page?

Don’t be upset if your pages usually fail this test. Keith reports that he’s been doing these tests since 1997 and most pages fail. The questions are designed to test the three major questions customers have when they land on your site: where they are, what is here, and where they can go.
When your pages pass the Navigation Stress test, your customers experience a lot less stress.

Mike Moran

Mike Moran is a Converseon, an AI powered consumer intelligence technology and consulting firm. He is also a senior strategist for SoloSegment, a marketing automation software solutions and services firm. Mike also served as a member of the Board of Directors of SEMPO. Mike spent 30 years at IBM, rising to Distinguished Engineer, an executive-level technical position. Mike held various roles in his IBM career, including eight years at IBM’s customer-facing website,, most recently as the Manager of Web Experience, where he led 65 information architects, web designers, webmasters, programmers, and technical architects around the world. Mike's newest book is Outside-In Marketing with world-renowned author James Mathewson. He is co-author of the best-selling Search Engine Marketing, Inc. (with fellow search marketing expert Bill Hunt), now in its Third Edition. Mike is also the author of the acclaimed internet marketing book, Do It Wrong Quickly: How the Web Changes the Old Marketing Rules, named one of best business books of 2007 by the Miami Herald. Mike founded and writes for Biznology® and writes regularly for other blogs. In addition to Mike’s broad technical background, he holds an Advanced Certificate in Market Management Practice from the Royal UK Charter Institute of Marketing and is a Visiting Lecturer at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business. He also teaches at Rutgers Business School. He was a Senior Fellow at the Society for New Communications Research and is now a Senior Fellow of The Conference Board. A Certified Speaking Professional, Mike regularly makes speaking appearances. Mike’s previous appearances include keynote speaking appearances worldwide

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