By: Seth Resler
Jacobs Media Strategies
We use website usability tests to see how people interact with radio station websites. In this test, you sit an individual in front of a computer and ask them to think out loud while they perform basic tasks on your website.
Whenever I conduct one of these tests, I always ask the tester what they would expect to find if they clicked on each item in the main menu. This shows us how well the language in the main navigation works. Over the course of many tests, I have found that many radio stations make some common mistakes with the language in their main menu.
Mistake #1: Vague Terms
When people organize their websites, sometimes they use “catch-all” terms in their menu because they don’t know a better way to group the content. Unfortunately, these vague terms can make it harder for people to navigate the site. For example, I often see the word “On Air” in radio station menus. It’s not clear what this refers to: Music? DJs? Contests? Commercials? Almost everything a radio station does can be described as “on air.’
Other Vague Terms: “About Town,” “Info,” “Live.”
Mistake #2: Duplicate Menu Items
From time to time, I see website menus with overlapping terms. For example, you might find both “Music” and “Playlist.” If a visitors want to find the title of a song, which one should they choose?
Other Duplicate Terms: “Events” and “Concerts,” “DJs” and “On Air.”
Mistake #3: Proper Nouns
Another common mistake is for radio station websites to use proper nouns instead of more common language. Don’t assume that your website visitors know what “Bonnaroo” is; use the term “Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival” instead.
Other Proper Nouns: Concert names, event names, sports team names (don’t assume that people know which team plays which sport; I recommend including an icon next to each team name indicating the appropriate sport).
Mistake #4: Station Jargon
This same principle applies to station-specific language. For example, if you have an email club called the “Zoo Crew,” this term may make sense to people who are familiar with the station, but it will mean nothing to the uninitiated. You can improve the navigation by using “Email Club” or “Zoo Crew Email Club” instead.
Other Station Jargon: DJ names, specialty shows, contest names, anything named for a sponsor.
Mistake #5: Industry Jargon
You also want to watch out for broadcasting industry terms. People outside the radio station don’t know what “Promotions” are; use the word “Contests.”
Other Radio Jargon: “Giveaway” and “Programming.”
Mistake #6: No Home Link
Spend enough time on the internet and you eventually figure out that more often than not, clicking a company’s logo in the upper-left corner of their website will take you back to its homepage. But don’t assume that your website visitors know this. Often, they will complain if there is no link back to the homepage in your main navigation.
Mistake #7: Too Many Dropdown Menu Items
Dropdown menus can be a great way to organize your navigation links in a way that is easy for visitors to use. But be careful not to cram too many items into the submenu. More than five makes it difficult for people to quickly find what they are looking for. Make sure you list these links in an order that is immediately obvious, such as alphabetical or chronological.
In case you are wondering, here are a few terms that consistently perform well in usability tests:
- Sports Teams
These terms conjure up specific meanings in the visitor’s mind, making it easy for them to find what they want.
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