What Can Ikea Teach You About Web Design?

A frustrated person. I had to buy a couple of things for the flat today and I went to the only place I know that had what I needed at the right price and the right quality: Ikea.

But it was a trade off: price and quality vs convenience and experience, because Ikea stores frustrate the life out of me.

There’s no directory in Ikea stores. You can go there, knowing exactly what you want, but you still have to follow the trail through the entire store to get it and pay.

When I need something I want to go straight to where I can get it, complete the transaction as quickly as possible and get the heck out.

As I was traipsing along the Ikea trail today I thought to myself that if this was a website I’d click away in an instant.

Which, if the website had had what I needed, would have resulted in a lost sale.

So is your website designed like an Ikea store? Or can someone who knows what they want come to your site and go straight to what they’re looking for?

Here are some ways to help people who know what they’re looking for find it quickly (if you’re using WordPress):

  1. Make sure your About page tells people how to use the site
  2. Make sure you use your categories clearly, effectively and consistently. And label them in a way that someone new to WordPress will know what they are.
  3. Make sure you use your tags with equal discipline and focus (tags and categories are WordPress’ filing system)
  4. Make sure your search function is good (the default WordPress search function is awful)
  5. Introduce each category page by telling visitors what the listing of articles covers
  6. Keep your top menu (navigation bar) to a single line. If necessary create a secondary (or primary) menu, which you can place at the top of your header (or somewhere obvious)
  7. Create a footer menu and remember you’ll need to manually update it if you add or remove pages.
  8. Get someone who’s not a web designer to assess how easy it is to find stuff on your site (and take their comments seriously!)

Not only will those steps help your site visitors, they’ll help the search engines as well – two benefits in one!


Martin Malden


What do you think?

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Jay Mar 22, 2011 @ 2:30

    Good post and very true. I would like to add to what you said about the footer message and say it does work if you use a slide in footer message offering a good product. It shows on every page of your blog, or website and it does increase sales substantially.

    • Martin Mar 22, 2011 @ 7:41

      Hi Jay,

      The effectiveness of those slide in footers (and the welcome bars which are usually at the top) really depends on how they’re implemented.

      I agree – they can be effective. But many times I see ones that are intrusive and those turn me right off.

      For example, if I click the ‘no thanks’ or ‘close’ link I don’t want to see the thing back again each time I load other pages on the same site.

      The implementation of them can make or break them 🙂



  • Peter Lawlor Apr 13, 2011 @ 9:54

    Good tips. Navigation is easy to forget about. I sometimes get so wrapped up into generating content I forget about the user experience.

    I’ll add a few ideas.

    1. The “Search Everything” plugin is excellent for better search results.

    2. Add Yet Another Related Posts Plugin which offers links and titles to related posts at the bottom of each post.

    3. Include links to relevant posts within your posts. I generally have those links open in a new window so visitors can continue with the original post.

    I particularly like your tip about explaining navigation and site-use in the About page. I don’t have that and never thought about it.

    • Martin Apr 13, 2011 @ 13:34

      Hi Peter,

      I’ve not used the ‘search everything’ plugin – good to hear there’s another good option for searching.

      And YARPP is excellent – I’ve had it on here for ages.

      The About page is interesting. I often look at the About pages of sites that I visit, but it’s one of the least viewed pages on this site. Still – at least those who do visit it will know how to get around the site 🙂