Usability

Why Web Pages of a Site Shouldn't Be Dramatically Different

One of the reasons why eyes hurt more on the computer than on TV, is that for every click we do (every page we view) we have to get acquainted with that new page. On TV the picture moves on its own, and the only interaction we do is very basic (changing channels, adjusting volume, etc.).

On the web, each part of our journey on a site needs a decision on our part, so every new page we view needs at least a couple of seconds for us to get familiar with it, and then decide which links we want to click on or whether or not we want to continue reading, or just leave the site.

If pages in a user's journey are very different from each other, then each click will require a certain amount of extra time for the user to adjust to the new page, and that consumes a good part of the visit to your site.

This becomes much more important in pages that are part of one process on the site (registration, shopping cart, uploading photos, etc). Ideally these processes should run as smoothly as possible. The only changes among these pages should be related to what the user did. If they uploaded a file for example, only an indication to the succes of failure should be given, and the only part changed on the page should be clearly showing the next step in the process.

Website Navigation: You Lead the Way

Imagine you have a sports club, and from experience, you know that people come to do mainly two things; either to play, or to watch sports.
So you make it a policy that every visitor be greeted on the door, before entering the club, and they should be asked the golden question, "Would you like to PLAY or to WATCH sports today?"
The first visitor says that he wants to play. He is taken to the playing area, and asked a more specific question, "What type of sports do you prefer to play? Group or individual sports?" According to the answer he is then taken to the relevant place. After that suppose they choose to play basketball, you can then take them to the next game you have on schedule.
Then, and only then, will this customer be really happy to know what basketball shoes, balls shirts etc. you have to sell or rent! After you knew what he really wants, and after he clearly saw that he can participate in his favorite sport. The freezing water you give him during the game is worth thousands because it would be really well-timed and in need.
The second visitor that day answers your golden question with, "I would like to WATCH." You then lead them to the places from which she can watch her favorite sport. You ask a more detailed question such as, "Would you prefer to watch from the restaurant, the terrace, or directly from the court?" According to that answer you lead her to the most suitable place from which she likes to watch. Then, and only then will she really appreciate your presenting her with the menu. She was asked what she would like to do, connected with herself, decided the type and location of the watching experience, and is totally ready for what relevant things you want to sell her.
This is the power of proper targeting, and guiding the visitor to the place they really want to be in at this moment.
The same process should be done by the website. On each page, there should be two, or a maximum of three big buttons that clearly show the available choices to the user. A news site should probably have three buttons for example: Read, Write, and Discuss news. This is particularly relevant to sites with dynamic, and huge amounts of content. The user is typically faced with tens of links, from which they have to choose. You, as the website owner should categorize all these links and put each of them in one of the three predefined choices when they enter your home page, or any other page. The following page should give the user some further choices regarding their preferences, and then they can enjoy endless browsing when they find the type of content / activity they want.