We all like to know where we are going, or at the very least, how to get to what we are looking for. When it comes to websites, navigation acts like a road map to guide the visitor around. It is, without a doubt, one of the most important elements of a website, because if your navigation is poor, people will never find your content no matter how great it is.
The importance of good navigation
The design, structure and labels of your navigation can have a huge impact on your website.
When you have good website navigation, a few things happen:
- Your website becomes easy to use
- Visitors user experience improves
- The better your visitor engages with your website, the higher the likelihood of converting a lead.
- Search Engine ranking improves
Here are some tips to help you improve navigation on your website.
Be useful through placement and labels
Your navigation bar is the key place to help visitors move around your website. People commonly expect to find a horizontal navigation at the top of the site or a vertical one on the left side. Although creativity beckons you to be different, this is one area you should stick to the expected.
Using descriptive labels would make it easier and faster for visitors to understand what you are about, they also help boost SEO and conversions. It indicates relevance to search engines and lets Google understand what you are about. For example, if you are an air conditioning business, use ‘Cooling and Heating Systems’ or, for those in the pet industry, go for ‘Dog Walking’ and ‘Pet Sitting’.
That being said, also keep in mind that your navigation bar does not need to appear on every page, there are pages like a checkout on a shopping site where a navigation bar can prove a distraction. Consider the user experience and what action you would like the user to focus on when you place your menu.
Make menus great again
Conventional dropdown menus – popular, but not great. Firstly, these menus are quite dated, it was good in 2005 but today, there are better ways to show your site links. Secondly, dropdowns only have plain text. In today’s illustrative world, adding graphics, pictures and icons will definitely improve the user click-through rate.
There is, however, one type of dropdown menu that performs quite well: the mega drop down. The mega menu is a are a type of expandable menu in which many choices are displayed in a two-dimensional dropdown layout.
The mega menu is great option for ecommerce websites development, allowing to showcase your most popular products and for website with lots of pages. It also serves to increase the number of links that a user can view at a time from the menu without too much clutter.
Limit the main menu options
Having too many of links in your navigation bar is not a good idea. Did you know that our short-term memory is able to hold only seven items? This means the more items you have in your navigation, the more difficult it is for your site visitors to remember and process the information. It deviates from the main offerings you would like your visitors to focus on.
Try grouping your categories by usage, application or relevance. For example Brochures, Manuals and Warranty Requests can be grouped under Support. Avoid long lists, challenge yourself to use not more than seven headings.
Pay attention to your order
Keep in mind that the items placed at the front and at the end of any list are the most effective. This works the same way for navigation bars. The first few and last few items are more easily recalled, and therefore, more prominent.
A quick guide: put the most popular and important items, like Products or Services, at the beginning of the navigation. If there are other items you want to highlight, for example Contact Us or Our Locations, list them last.
The burger menu
Navigation that is optimised for handheld devices can best be summed up in two words: ‘hamburger menu’.
Made up of three horizontal lines (and as such it looks like a hamburger), this icon is usually found at the top of mobile websites and reveals the navigation menu when clicked on. Although it is a standard icon and most people would know what it is, adding the word ‘menu’ may still be helpful.
With the rise of the mobile revolution, most website use the burger menu as the standard navigation icon. It usually works in much the same way as the mobile menu, to reveal navigation options once clicked on.
Strategy to consider when creating your navigation menu
When deciding on the links for your menu, consider the target audience of your website and how you would like to guide them through their interaction with your business.
The first section of the menu is the most visible and relevant. Focus on your products and services, tell users what your main business offering, capabilities and what our expertise are. Observing the customer journey, they will be in a awareness stage, looking for a way to solve their problems, so make sure this first part is clear and concise. Mega menus with graphics, icons or photos are great to showcase your expertise offerings.
2. About Us
The next section should explain a little about your company. Who you are, your team, your beliefs and anything else a potential client can learn about your company. The customer is now in the consideration stage, so help them decide why they should work with you or buy your products.
The resource section should have information about the services or products that you offer, usually this section would have brochures, manuals, case studies, knowledge base, FAQs or blogs.
4. Contact Us
Finally, you need to provide visitors with a way to contact you. This is the final part of the customer’s journey, decision making. Help them reach out to you easily using a phone number, email or even an online quote form. Apart from the usual Contact Us label, you can use more descriptive terms like Get in Touch, Get a Free Quote, Store Locations to include a call-to-action reinforcement.
We hope these tips and examples will help you with your navigation design. We won’t call it a guide as there are exceptions to every rule. In any case, the aim of this article is to make you cast a fresh glance on your website navigation menu. Maybe it needs some tweaks or changes that will greatly increase your traffic and improve your conversion or work better for mobile gadget users.