'Where on the Internet am I?' Checklist

People don't always land on a home page of a new site. Sometimes they jump to a inner page via search engine links, links in other sites, or email links.

When users land on a page they aren't familiar with, they look for indicators to tell them which site they're on, what the site offers, and where the content that was promised by the link is. They want all that information with minimal effort.

To ensure users aren't lost when they land on your Web page, every page must provides answers to the following questions.

Where is the Content Promised by the Link?

When users click on a link, they expect the page they land on to provide the content promised by the link.

If the user can't find the promised content, they will:

  • try to find a link that closely resembles what we are looking for;
  • browse the page to see if anything catches their interest;
  • use the site's search engine to try to find what they are looking for;
  • visit the home page to see if it offers any more information on the content they are looking for; and
  • click the "Back" button on their browser window to return to the previous page.

What is This Page About?

Every page on your site must provide information that clearly and effectively indicate to the user exactly what it is about.

As such you should display a prominent page title near the top of the every page. The page title should also be included in the page's TITLE meta tag, so it also appears in the browser's title bar. If the user bookmarks the page, the meta tag title text will appear in their user's bookmark folder.

Where are the Local Navigation Links

When a user lands on a page looking for content promised by the link, it is logical to conclude that they are more than likely to be interested in content similar to that contained on the page.

So, it is important to provide local navigation links to similar content to encourage the user to explore your site further. Local navigation links are especially useful, when the page doesn't offer the content promised by the link they clicked.

What is the Name of This Site?

When a user lands on a new Web page, they need reassurance that they are on the site promised by the link they clicked. So you must clearly identify the name of your site by displaying text, or a graphic logo at the top of the page.

Where are the Links to the Main Sections of the Site?

When a user lands on a new Web page, they won't necessarily know what the site has to offer. Often a user will look for the primary navigation links to get a quick overview of what the site has to offer. This is another reason why is it important that every page on your site includes primary navigation links.

Where is the Link for the Homepage?

Help, I'm lost! How do I jump to the home page?

If a user lands on a page and the page doesn't provide the content they are looking for, they will often visit the home page to see if it provides more information to help them find what they are looking for.

As such, it is essential that every page includes clearly marked links to your home page. Also make sure you link your site's logo to your hopmepage.

Where am I in Relation to the Homepage?

When a user lands on a sub-page of a new site, they need some indication of which level they are on in the site and where they are in relation to the home page.

For this reason, breadcrumb trails were introduced to Web sites. Breadcrumb trails help gives users a bearing of where they are in a site and allow users to jump up a level or two, or directly to the home page.

How Can I Search This Site?

A lot of Web users will use a site's search form to find what they are looking for, if they can't find it in the page they are on. So it is essential that you provide a search form at the top of each page, or at the very least, a link to the search form.