During the development and design of a website, it’s possible to concentrate on the quality of content and forget about site navigation. But, the design and content of your website will only be valuable to the visitors if they can find their way around. Navigation menus are the online map that leads your audience to the products or services they’re looking for and determines the action they take afterward. Therefore, developing an easy-to-navigate website should be a top priority. If it’s not, visitors will have a hard time finding the information they’re looking for and will most likely leave your site and look for one they can ‘understand.’
So, what to do to have better site navigation? Look at these seven best practices to have in mind when designing your website.
1. Keep Navigation Predictable
Embracing creativity in your web design is good but avoid using it in places where visitors are likely to prefer a predictable design over a unique one. There’s a good reason why navigation menus in most websites have an almost similar look. It’s because they work. Users are used to that structure, and they can navigate a website without having to overthink about it because they’re familiar with it and their ability to navigate will come out more naturally.
Getting overly creative with navigation tabs can be confusing, and visitors are less likely to engage further with your website. The whole idea of unique and innovative designs isn’t bad at all. But you should ensure that the end-user can understand your design and its intention. Otherwise, stick to placing what users can easily see or predicts whether it’s the header, footer, or sidebar.
Also, use the phrases users are used to when relating to your business or industry. In web design, ensure to use information architecture to meet user expectations –you can read an explanation about this to ensure a good user experience. Using relatable phrases such as ‘donate’ in a non-profit site or ‘our services’ in a service-related website makes more sense to visitors.
2. Keep It Simple And Concise
Since navigation enhances the user experience for your website, design concise and straightforward navigation. A concise design gives your homepage more authority that’s likely to flow to the interior pages. This helps your website rank well in search engines, improving your Search Engine Optimization (SEO).
Keeping the navigation structure simple goes together with predictability, not only that, but you can also avoid making your navigation difficult to understand as well. For example, you have a predictable design but full of cluttered menus and submenus. To a user, it’ll look disorganized and it’ll be hard for them to navigate through your website.
A 2019 study showed that 51% of website traffic is from organic search, meaning 51% of potential customers. Since navigation is the engine of your site, it should be kept simple so that it improves user engagement.
3. Don’t Hide The Navigation
In website navigation, your site should always display all the important features conspicuously. This practice needs to be used for the navigation options and content as well. Sometimes, web designers may design a hamburger menu that auto hides and only become available on-demand. This may be too much work for visitors, and there’s a possibility they won’t click to see all the information on the menu.
4. Keep Navigation Structure Consistent In All Pages
It’s good practice to have a consistent page structure across all pages on your site. When a user visits your site for the first time, they make sense of it in just a few seconds. If they take longer than this, it means that your site is difficult to understand. Afterward, the user expects to see the structure and design reflected in the first page replicated in every page they visit.
Having a new navigation design and structure on every page only frustrates users, as they need to ‘make sense’ of each page. Most users are likely to find this frustrating and time-consuming as they need time to understand each page.
5. Have A Clear Hierarchical Structure
Another critical navigation practice is having a clear hierarchical structure where each category and expandable subcategories are included in the menu. Even when your parent categories are extensive, all subcategories should be listed in order. This gives a visitor a clear idea of what’s under a specific menu without having to go through several pages to find what they’re looking for.
It’s an especially helpful feature in websites that offer a vast range of products and services, such as eCommerce sites.
6. Include A Sitemap
A sitemap for all of the main pages at least is crucial in a website to make it more usable. Any user who gets lost can always go to the sitemap for re-direction. The map lists all your site’s pages clearly and in a hierarchical order and gives a basic structure of the entire website. Notably, the sitemap should be simple without providing details on each topic.
7. Always Have A Search Bar
A search bar is an extremely important website tool for making your search interface more usable. This is a shortcut that allows users to navigate through the website without the need to go to the navigation menu. Even though a search bar can’t replace the navigation menu, it plays an important role for visitors who know what they’re looking for. But it’s more about finding content quicker than it is in site exploration.
It makes it very difficult for visitors to browse through endless content on websites with a lot of content looking for a single item. Research shows that search bars are 1.8 times more effective at producing conversions.
There’s a lot that goes into designing and developing a website. While each aspect is essential, navigation forms a massive part of how users interact with your site. A good design with great content that users can’t find will be ineffective in helping you reach your business goals. A navigation structure or system that’s clear yet comprehensive is crucial for achieving an excellent user interface and experience. It helps to keep site visitors engaged, reducing bounce rates, and increasing conversations.