Website navigation – best practices to implement

If you haven’t contemplated the issue of website navigation already, now is the best time to do so. As it turns out, navigation that fails to meet the standards and expectations of website visitors will make them leave and never again return. The average website visit lasts no more than a mere minute. With poorly done website navigation, you can easily fail to deliver the exact message of your brand. Moreover, chances are your product or services will draw no attention, and your website’s visitors will steer towards the competition. Since this is something no brand wishes to see happening, improving website navigation is the most logical step you can take.

two women browsing through a webiste, representing website navigation practices
With the average website visit lasting no more than a minute, poorly done website navigation could imply failing to deliver the exact message of your brand.

Factors that point out how important website navigation is

To begin with, let us start by emphasizing just how relevant navigation actually is for a webpage. It is vital to grasp the real significance of navigation since top-notch UX is something that can make or break your online business. This is more than enough of a reason to consider investing both money and effort into improving website navigation in order to make it handy and helpful for your customers.

  • Good navigation provides a clear, simple, and effective manner to go through a website regardless of which page the users landed on in the first place.
  • Overall user experience often depends directly on quality website navigation.
  • Well-thought-out website navigation keeps people on your site and reduces bounce rates.
  • On the other hand, elements such as the CTA button increase conversion rates.

Alternatively, poor navigation may cause issues such as loss of revenue and low conversion rates. Visitors will find it difficult and frustrating to explore the website, which will eventually cause them to leave and not return.

persons pointing at a laptop screen
Failing to pay enough attention to navigation aspects may cause issues such as loss of revenue and low conversion rates.

Navigation vs. User experience

UX is a term used to denote the overall way a user perceives both website’s usability and its aesthetics. Good user experience is something every website owner ought to strive for. There are plenty of factors of web development (i.e. page load time) and web design (images, colors, fonts, CTAs) that play a role in the user experience quality.

When it comes to factors that can make or break good UX – website navigation is one of the most important ones to take into consideration. It makes no difference how visually appealing your site is if the users are unable to track down the web form. With proper navigation, visitors are able to make a smooth transition from one page to the next one, allowing them to find exactly what they were looking for; it eventually leaves them looking forward to paying another visit, knowing they will indeed be able to find what they are after.

Without a clear navigation menu and other manners of exploring a site such as breadcrumbs, visitors will be reluctant to use (and re-use) your company’s website.

Types of website navigation

Whereas there are a plethora of ways in which sites can be differentiated when it comes to structure and design, website navigation comes in a few standard types that can be recognized across the online world. There are certain navigation norms that allow visitors to move through a site they’ve never stepped their foot on before.

  • Header menu – it appears at the top of every page and runs horizontally across the screen.
  • Sidebar menus – lists that are placed on either or both sides of the webpage.
  • Split-up menu – places links to other pages on different sides or corners of the page.
  • Hamburger menu – this type of menu is often present on mobile versions of websites; it comes in particularly handy when there is a limited amount of space.
  • Footer – whether you choose to repeat the main menu items or place other relevant and useful links, this is a great place to do so.

Ways to improve navigation of your website

There are many ways to improve your current website navigation and avoid poor UX, which may have many unwanted effects on your brand image. Here are the most effective ways to create a good navigation environment:

Menu practices that have been proven successful

a girl using a cell phone
Website navigation is equally important on mobile devices.

The main menu of your website is one of the most important aspects of navigation done right. Consider some of the best practices:

  1. Create a sticky menu. This type of menu, also known as the “floating” or “fixed” menu, stays in sight even during scrolling down the website. If the site happens to have so-called long-scrolling pages, this practice will improve navigation, since visitors will not be forced to scroll all the way to the top of the page to reach the menu again. Extra tip – if this isn’t an option, think about adding a “back to the top” button, which also simplifies the process of reaching the menu after scrolling down the web pages.
  2. The number of menu items should be limited. Too many options and choices will distract users. By keeping the number of menu items below seven, you will be offering visitors a chance to process and digest the input of information; this makes people land on the web page they wish to see much faster. If you happen to have many pages, sections, and pieces of information you want to make visible in the menu, break everything down into submenus. Dropdown menus are best avoided when possible (users will expect to land on another page after they click on an item) – but there are in fact cases where dropdown menus are somewhat of a necessity.
  3. When it is necessary – consider creating a mega dropdown menu. With websites that offer large quantities of content, it’s not always possible to limit menu items to five or six. This is where megamenus come in handy. These types of menus are not regular dropdown menus, but rather panels with lists containing various categories and sub-categories.

Other ways to upgrade web navigation on your site

  1. Users will appreciate a clean and simple website. Clear design and fonts, straightforward and well-known, recognizable words. Contact, About, Services –  these words will create an instant understanding in users’ eyes.
  2. Your navigation bar might need some reorganizing. Streamline the header navigation bar according to what visitors want to do on your website.
  3. Hypertext should be obvious. This is where proper web design comes into play. Make sure that hypertext can be differentiated from the rest of the content at all times (not only during cursor hovering).
  4. Navigation should be where people expect it to be. Don’t overdo it when it comes to creativity. Bear in mind that a creative approach is important, but not as important as the overall user experience – which might easily be damaged by too much creativity. Header navigation bar, footer, sidebar – these should all be in places where people expect them to be.

A few extra tips on top of that:

  • Link your company logo back to the homepage.
  • Make sure users are able to reach any page from any page.
  • Website navigation should be completely responsive on mobile devices.

There are numerous practices that will prove to be beneficial to almost every website. But each site and each brand require a different, tailor-made approach. With digital marketing New York specialists handling your website navigation, putting their skills and expertise into creating a better experience for your visitors, your online business will experience a major improvement.

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