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Web Design Stance on Back Button and How to Use it

Mar 11, 2008
Any experienced web designer should know without having to be told that the Back Button is an extremely part of any web page.

Your web design company certainly expects you to understand this fundamental concept of web design. You should realize the truth of this claim after having surfed the internet and visited various web sites for some time.

All too often, however, web designers take this important button for granted. "Back" or "Back to Home/Start" links that are sometimes built into web pages are frequently poorly designed, and do not lead users to the page that they were previously on.

Directing a user to the exact page that they were on before they were linked to the current page requires more than a little programming knowledge.

When they do not function properly, these "Back" links reflect poorly upon you site and often discourage visitors from exploring more of your site.

How People Browse the Web
A large number of people online visit web sites with no specific purpose in mind other than to gain a general idea of what that web site contains.

If what they see in the first few seconds on the site does not interest them, then their cursor immediately moves to the Back button in the upper left hand corner of the screen to bring them back to their previous page.

Some people use this button so often that they fail to realize how much they rely on the Back button for their convenience. They visit one site after another, scrolling up and down each one, and after determining that the site contains nothing of interest to them, head straight for the back button and away from the site.

Do Not Try To Impact This Negatively
Web designers all over the world have a common reaction to this phenomenon they do their best to prevent it.

Regardless of which web design company you work for, or what programs and tools you use to create your web sites, you do not want visitors to simply skim your web page before leaving. No, you want them to stay.

And some web page designers take extreme measures to try to prevent visitors from leaving their sites. Some program the page to open in a window that does not have a back button, others make their page open in a new window and cause the old window to close.

It is not difficult to see that web users will quickly become annoyed with this, and it definitely does not present you or the web design company you represent in a good light.

By doing this, web designers cripple their own web sites because they have deprived visitors of the standard controls used to navigate websites and they have also ensured that the visitors will leave the web site as soon as possible and not return.

This is hardly ideal for either web designers or their customers. So, instead of fighting the back button, try using its presence to your advantage.

How to Take Advantage
Taking advantage of the back button does not entail giving your users instructions on how to use the button. They already know this.

Instead, you want to take advantage of the fact that the visitors to your web site are thoroughly predictable in that they will inevitably head for the back button after some time.

Try to take advantage of this constant attention paid to the back button. Here are some ways that you do this:

Any advertisements or branding elements that you put on your web site could be placed in the upper left hand corner of the site, near the back button. They are likely to receive more attention here from visitors using the back button than anywhere else on the page.

Make your branding elements or advertisements links to other pages. By doing that, you create the chance that visitors might just link themselves to another one of your pages if they miss the back button of if you are branding elements catch their attention.

Make use of the server logs to obtain information about the pages that visitors to your site were on before they were linked over. This will provide your web design company and clients with important information that they can make use of.

If you know what sites visitors to your site usually return to, you could provide a direct address to those sites from yours.

If, for example, visitors are coming from a search engine, then you could provide visitors from there with an object that will connect them with that search engine and also help them search your site.

It is important to remember that one of the most helpful things designers can do for visitors is to include details on how to search your site.

This is likely to earn you the appreciation of not only your visitors, but also of clients and your web design company.
About the Author
Moe Tamani is a SEO web design consultant Dallas Web Design.
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