While most of us would not give much explicit thought to the website navigation design, the navigation can influence both the traffic to the website and the conversions. The website navigation design is critical because it facilitates visitors to find the right information quickly. And hence, you must give enough thought to it.
This article will discuss five best practices that you must apply when it comes to designing your website navigation. Once you implement these steps, you will have navigation that helps you meet your business objectives.
#1: KISS (Keep It Simple, And Short)
You might be tempted to provide links to all the information you have on the website in the navigation menu. After all, you want the visitors to see and read every word you have so painstakingly written.
However, an unnecessarily long list of options will only confuse the visitors instead of helping them. The larger the choice, the greater the confusion. Two, remember Pareto’s rule of 80:20? That applies here too. Only 20% of the information will drive 80% of your results. Your navigation should reflect the path to this 20 % information.
If you really want to provide more options, have submenus, and group the options together logically. However, remember that simple dropdowns are challenging to crawl for search engines, depending on how they are programmed. While the “mega menus” (the menus that provide extensive information about options) may be worth the hassle given a specific scenario, it is best to keep navigation as simple as possible.
#2: Order is Important
While you might not remember who landed on the moon second, chances are you might remember who landed last. But for navigation menus, the last is the most recalled navigation item. It is the result of the recency effect. That’s why you will find many websites using the prominent Call-To-Action (CTA) as the last option in the navigation menus.
That’s why I think about the placements for the first and last options with sufficient efforts. It has the potential to boost conversions.
#3: Make It Meaningful
Do you think all the menus look the same? They have the same labels? e.g., Home, Services, Products, and so on? Well, it doesn’t have to be. Unless you are a vast organization with many service offerings, you do not need to use the generic labels for the navigation menus.
Suppose you have some services or products, and their names can fit into the navigation menu. In that case, you can use them instead of the generic labels. Such an approach would help you with SEO as well as engagement & conversions.
However, please don’t get too creative when it comes to standard options. For example, visitors expect to see the burger icon (three horizontal lines) for the menu. You can add the text “Menu” along with it, but if you use something else for the menu instead of the burger icon, visitors may get confused. The same is true for the search icon. Instead of the magnifying glass, if you use something else, your visitors will get confused. Hence, ensure that the familiar icons and texts have the same meaning in your context.
#4: Interlink Your Content
Website navigation design is not only about the navigation menus. It is about traversing the information maze that you have created. Ensure that you have a logical path the visitors can follow. Provide this map to your visitors using links in your content that connect to other pages and posts.
Such interlinking also serves another function. It helps you ensure that your visitors stay on your site for longer but moving between different content pieces.
#5: Provide A Map to Users
It is critical to provide a sense of awareness to visitors. The breadcrumbs are there for a reason. It is also essential that you offer other usual options to the visitors. For example, your logo should always link to your home page. Your navigation menu should be available on all the pages. Highlight the active link in the navigation menu. The ease of navigation provides comfort to your visitors.
Analyze and Change Your Website Navigation Design Based on Data
While the best practices are derived from the techniques that worked for others, you are unique. Your context may mean that some of these practices may not be as effective as they are for others. The best course of action for you is to analyze visitor behavior on your website.
There are quite a few tools available for this purpose. You should understand how they behave. If you find any patterns that may indicate that the visitors are confused or not comfortable with your website’s navigation design, you should tweak it. You can also use A/B testing for these kinds of decisions.
Remove the items that rarely get clicked. If they are essential, try to change their text. Make the pages and posts that often get visited more prominent and accessible. You can also try repositioning some items. The data and analytics should guide to what works for you and what doesn’t.
Let’s quickly recap the five practices we discussed in the article. The crux of those practices is.
- Keep the navigation options as minimum as possible, but enough to lead the visitors to all required information.
- When considering the navigation menu, the first and the last items are critical as people tend to remember them easily.
- Instead of using generic labels, explore the possibility of using descriptive text that identifies with the information you want to present.
- Let your visitors move from one piece of content to another.
- Provide a sense of direction and awareness by ensuring that the visitors know where they are and how they can move to where they want.