If you remove the header, footer, sidebars and global navigation from a web page, is the website weak or can it remain productive and search engine friendly?
There are all kinds of ways to approach website design. It is easy for someone starting out to purchase a theme or use a free WordPress theme to install an entire website. The important pieces are ready, such as the header, footer and widgets that make up the body content. Search engines are getting better at finding what they need inside page markup packed with scripts and CSS. There are an incredible number of actions a server takes to render a web page, as well as an enormous arsenal of instructions on how to render pages for different mobile devices and browsers.
Not every website bothers to jump through the hoops to make websites user friendly, no matter where they are viewed from. I was surprised to get a letter in the mail this weekend from an organization that launched a new website that can only be viewed and accessed with Internet Explorer. Anyone who has access to browser data knows the use of this browser is dropping in favor of Google Chrome and Firefox. And what about MAC users?
There are many things to consider if you own a web site, whether it be server side, device and browser rendering, code and search engine marketing. Are you also focused on the user experience?
What is a Web Core?
If you exercise, or practice something like Tai Chi or Yoga, meditate or try some form of relaxation routine, you will be familiar with references to your core. Your body’s core is its center. It is you, without legs and arms for support. It is, for our human body, our foundation and when it is out of balance, our body sends out alarms that it is not healthy.
A strong body core can be seen by looking at how people carry themselves and how they respond emotionally to events. I have a friend who has been teaching in the holistic healing arts field for over 30 years and he taught me to observe people walking to see how strong or weak their body core was. After years of people watching, I know that it is rare to see someone walk tall, as if their head is being pulled up by a cloud from the sky. Most people are hunched over, trying to find the road and a safe place to put their feet.
This is how most of us move around websites. Our eyes are constantly searching for a safe, sure place to click to next. By habit, we know where to find most of the areas of the site to show us where to go, but with so many new web design fads for desktop and mobile site designs, we are less and less likely to be sure how to find where we want to go. It’s hard to hold your head up and feel confident when every time you visit a website, you must first learn where they put everything.
The core of a website is found within the body content. When we arrive to a webpage, we see its “hands” moving around, pointing to pages via navigation in the header and sidebars and even more “waving” to get our attention from the footer. Remember how older web designs were a free-for-all of links plastered all over the homepage, all clamoring for attention and hoping to be clicked on? It has taken years to minimize this crazy jumping up and down of text links, animation, lists of links and rows of images that created an enormous backlash of user frustration.
We wanted to find the core part of the webpage. We wanted to know its story in a less invasive, chaotic way.
How to Find a Web Core
This is the fun part.
Most websites do not have a web core. For starters, today’s web designs are not core driven. Parallax pages are experimental and I think that some of the more experienced parallax page designers are starting to look for ways to present a page core to create a sense of balance and as a place to center the site’s message. But for the most part, what we see now are long pages with layered images, smatterings of content and a presentation that tries to appeal to our human senses. It is entertaining to view these pages, especially for movies.
The more common page type is one that scrolls. In fact, some web pages scroll on forever and there is no footer. These pages have no core. There is no center. They are broken up segments, each with a mind of its own. You could say that each of these sections has its own core, or balance point, but humans are impatient and we have short memories. Long, long pages contain a lot of content to remember. We can’t handle all that information. We need breaks. We want places to go. We even feel out of control, out of balance, frustrated and overwhelmed when presented with endlessly scrolling web pages.
We need to find the center.
Remember how I keep reminding you of the importance of the user experience and how it relates to Internet Marketing? The reason I bring up the human factor is because web site visitors are not robots. I know that most of you are devoted to helping search engines find and rank your web pages, but you are targeting robots that don’t have credit cards or PayPal, nor do they have wish lists, provide ratings and absolutely do not know how to write reviews based on personal experience. People do that stuff. Your goal is to optimize for them.
Understanding what makes humans take action on your website has something to do with how they feel when they get there. What they seek is contained within your web site’s core. Your web pages must be able to draw people to that web core. This is the part of the page and even entire web site that contains energy.
The Core Journey
I decided to take you all on a journey with me by writing a series of blog posts about the web site core. It’s my way of trying to help you understand concepts I have written and presented about for over a dozen years regarding SEO and Usability and now, Conversions and Persuasive Design.
Your homework (yep, sorry), is to look at your homepage and top level category landing pages and see if you can figure out its core, or even if one exists. To do this, pretend the header, sidebars, footer and global navigation are not there. What is left? What is contained within the body content itself? How much of the middle information is there? Is the page an Oreo cookie, Double Stuffed Oreo Cookie or Rainbow Oreo cookie?
Next, if you want to really play along, sit somebody in front of the pages you are studying and ask them to pretend the header, sidebars, footer and global navigation are not there. Ask them how the page makes them feel. That’s all. (Have them assign an Oreo cookie rating!) You don’t need to carry on a long conversation about it or judge their responses. If they feel nothing at all, that is a great answer. If they feel something, such as an emotion, what is it? What triggered it?
Feel free to leave your “homework” in the comments below or hold onto them until next Tuesday. I’ll start to put this together for you. First, we will find your web page core. Then, we will work on enhancing it for better “health” such as site function, content balance and good energy flow. The ultimate goal is help you change your website so that it is far and away more unique because this is what people talk about, and this will add power to your Internet marketing strategies.