Website navigation - How to get it right for your business
It is critical to have a well thought out website navigation and its importance cannot be underestimated in terms of your websites’ success. The design of your website must include navigation that is clear, organised and useful to visitors.
The most common and simple navigation are menus, which are organised lists of links to other webpages, usually your internal site pages. Navigation typically appears in page headers or sidebars across a website, which are what visitors are familiar with.
Navigation menus also often contain a sub-navigation menu, which gives visitors various options but still in a basic, structured way so it is not overwhelming.
Why is Website Navigation So Important?
The first thing to point out is that the quality of your website navigation can be the difference between a visitor landing on your home page and then browsing your website, or clicking ‘back’ and therefore losing the visitor without an interaction, resulting in poor engagement rates / high bounce rates.
Website visitors demand clear, easy to navigate websites because sites that offer this allow them to easily and quickly find the information they are looking for. No one enjoys a messy, clunky website. High-quality user experience leads to higher conversion rates and improved customer loyalty.
Types of Website Navigation
The structure of your website and the types of navigation you choose will depend on your target audience and what will suit best. The number of users who access websites via mobile devices is enormous so navigation should always be responsive for mobile users and therefore change in appearance, and sometimes even layout.
Some of the most commonly used navigation types are:
Horizontal Navigation Bar
Everyone is familiar with this option and is what users tend to look for when searching for information. Listing the major pages of the website alongside one another, it is easily visible at the top of the page. Visitors have many expectations and that includes seeing certain popular menu items such as ‘About’, ‘Services’ and ‘Contact’.
Dropdown Navigation Menu
Perfect for sites that have a lot of digital content, with a complex information architecture, dropdown menus provide plenty of links in a simple format. Listing broad items in the top-level navigation bar, each one can contain more detailed lists in the dropdown.
You may need to group your dropdown items into even smaller groups if there are several as no one wants to be hit with a dropdown list of 35 items. Alternatively, dedicating a whole page to showing your options, perhaps with images, may be less cumbersome than a complex dropdown.
Vertical Sidebar Navigation Menu
A navigation menu that sits vertically in the sidebar of a website is a good option if you want to have longer navigation titles. Also, there is more room if you want to have a larger number of top-level navigation options.
Hamburger Navigation Menu
While maybe not known by its name, the hamburger button will be familiar to all web users. An icon consisting of three parallel horizontal lines, it is usually located in the top corner and when pressed, reveals a hidden menu, called a hamburger menu. This option saves screen space by hiding navigation until the user wants to see the menu and is particularly helpful for mobile devices.
Footer Navigation Menu
Visitors are used to scrolling to the bottom of a page to find the footer navigation if they can’t find what they want at the top. The footer is handy to provide more options that may clutter up the top of your page.
Website Navigation Design
While there are endless options with designing your navigation, a major consideration is how to ensure quality UX so visitors will have a positive experience, and ultimately convert, or return to your website.
Make your primary navigation section stand out by having it visually different to the rest of the content on the page. Keep it simple, yet descriptive so it communicates the content immediately.
The order of your navigation items is important and as a general rule, put what you think is the most important to your visitors at the beginning. Put ‘Contact’ as the last item as this has become a standard location for this.
How you choose to phrase your navigation options is up to you, but as always, keep your visitors in mind and try to appeal to what they will find most intuitive. Most obvious navigation is object-based - think ‘Products’, ‘Resources’ and ‘About’. Action-based navigation includes things such as ‘Apply’, ‘Request a Quote’ and ‘Book Now’. There is also audience-based navigation, like a school may use with ‘Employees’ and ‘Students’.
In saying that, be creative with your navigation rather than using generic phrases. If it suits, list your products, rather than navigating to ‘Products’. More descriptive navigation that uses keywords is a good SEO strategy, allowing for better search rankings and conversions.
Breadcrumb navigation allows users to keep track of their location on your website by displaying a trail of the page they are currently on along with the previous pages or the hierarchy of higher pages. Being able to swiftly navigate back to their starting point or a previous page contributes to a user-friendly website.
Easy CMS for Navigation
Determining which pages should be part of your navigation may take some thought, and keep in mind that for SEO and UX it is recommended to limit your navigation to 7 items1. The text you have within your main and sub-navigation is also critical so visitors can get to the information easily, but your content also maximises your SEO potential.
Finding a comprehensive content management system will help you design effective navigation. Analysing your marketing analytical data can assist as it provides the activity of your visitors and what content and functionality is leading to conversions.
Our expert web design team at Web Force 5 offers an easy CMS solution with Continuum, a platform that provides everything you need to build and maintain your company’s website. Once your navigation is implemented, it is important to track and monitor website behaviour using Google Analytics, and this highly innovative CMS platform allows for easy edits and updates to your navigation.
Other analytics software is available if you prefer a deeper insight into click behaviour, including Hotjar which is a trusted source of everything you want to know about your website’s performance.
The user experience and user interface of your website must be a priority so an initial well thought out, methodical review of what is right for your business is essential. Web Force 5 has UX/UI certified teams who specialise in this field so you can get it right.
Using website navigation best practices, our team makes sure your navigation is consistent, that it adapts to any screen size and has your most important information easily accessible. Speak to a specialist consultant for a free no obligation chat.