Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The Footer Map: Adding Value To Least Frequented Part of Your Webpages

This morning I found myself clicking on a part of a page I had never really paid much attention to in the past. It was in the deep, dark recesses of the footer where in the past you only found the necessary evils of website content. Things like legal policies and privacy policies usually were cast away here to be ignored. But today, I actually saw content there and clicked on it. It then clicked in my head that I had seen this before, but hadn't really noticed the impact of it until I had clicked today.

It is a "footer map" or a mini site map that is right above the footer. These little creatures are popping up all over the place. I took a trip around the web to see who & how others were using this and who were still kickin' it old skool.

First, I went to news organizations. A number of them had recently been redesigned, so I wanted to see if this was part of their objectives. CBSNews.com, ABCNews.com and CNN.com have completely overhauled their websites this past year. Not one of them had a footer map, in fact ABCNews.com seems to go out of its way to plead that you ignore their footer with this message:

External links are provided for reference purposes. ABC News is not responsible for the content of external internet sites. Copyright © 2007 ABCNews Internet Ventures

I went to local newspapers and was surprised to find that the only one utilizing a footer map is NYPost.com. Their website is riddled with bad design components and overly aggressive banner ads that surround and even sometimes jump on to your content. Yet they are the only ones to implement this cool widget. Not even the NYTimes.com had one.

As I hunted down other Footer Map examples, I found that Amazon, eBay and Microsoft were telling me about their investor relations and copyrights as footers have done for a decade. Apple, LinkedIn and Webshots had implemented really nice Footer Maps on the other hand.

What makes a good Footer Map? Footer Maps let you bubble value closer to the surface of every page. It's not about the categories...It's about scent. In fact, on all three of these websites, you can't even click on the categories. They are easy to scan and find content quickly. Apple only puts a subset if its official sitemap which has 225 links on it. Their Footer Map only has 49 links.
Another value, and quite possibly the reason they were designed in the first place, is getting more content sniffed by search engine robots. I guess there is some peril here as well if you put too many links here they may see you as someone trying to be devious. Whether it is search engine robots or getting users to more info, there is a lot of good here to be utilized.

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