The last time you went to a supermarket, what made it easier to find stuff? The aisles labelled with product category names.
When you last picked up a book and searched for a specific topic, what made it easier to find it? An index page that had names of all main topics or chapters listed, with page numbers.
These categories and hierarchies make it easier to locate what you are looking for. They make it simpler to navigate through a lot of content. A similar system in websites is website navigation.
Why do we need it?
The main goal is to help visitors to easily find things on your website, and navigate it with comfort. It facilitates movement from one web page to another. It also helps the search engines like Google to understand the content and context of the destination page(s), and the relationship between them.
Designing a solid navigation system is undoubtedly one of the most important aspects of designing a website. It affects how smoothly visitors can traverse your website, how long they will stay on it, and if they will interact with you, buy your product/service. It also has an impact on how high the site ranks in search results, and how much traffic it’ll get from search. So, scroll for some things you need to keep in mind, to improve your website’s navigation.
Plan your navigation and categorize content
Before you start designing your website, decide on what kind of features it will offer. And the hierarchy in which information will be displayed. In its early stages, a website menu is referred to as a ‘sitemap’, usually a diagram or spreadsheet with the different levels of information.
Form meaningful category hierarchies that make sense to a layman visitor. Interlink the pages efficiently. Use proper navigation bars. They are often found in headers, sidebars (left or right) and footers. Websites may use any of them, or all.
Incorporate a responsive design
As per a report by German statistics and database company Statista, mobile accounts for approximately half of web traffic worldwide. And it has consistently hovered around the 50 percent mark since the beginning of 2017. This makes it essential for your website navigation to be 100% responsive on mobile, not only a desktop. Incorporate a responsive design, to give a great user experience to visitors from any device.
Most modern websites use a compact navigation style tucked in the top right or left corner, called the ‘hamburger menu’. It functions by sliding in, sliding down, or popping up. Design its menu levels well, so visitors don’t get confused on how to navigate.
Utilize the footer
The footer in any website is coded and treated as its own section. Separate from the header, content and sidebars. While you don’t have to include dozens of links on it, you sure can make good use of this space.
You could use it to repeat the header navigation bar. That way, people won’t have to scroll up to find the link they want. Or, you could expand on the header navigation bar – by adding other links to important pages on your website. Several modern websites these days have, and make good use of what we call a ‘fat footer’.
Say no to format-based navigation
If you plan to have navigation labels such as ‘Photos’, ‘Videos’, ‘White Papers’, ‘Audios’ etc., please don’t. They will not really help in bringing web traffic. Because your website’s visitors will not directly come looking for photos or videos. They will come looking for answers, information, products, services and solutions.
Moreover, these kinds of labels are not topics. They are formats of content. And they are not descriptive in any way. Topics over formats, at least in most of the website navigation labels.
Put user experience at the center of everything
This goes without saying, but we will say it anyway. Your website’s visitors should be a top priority when you design and develop every aspect of it. And that includes your website navigation too! Make use of clear and visible design and text. Use labels like “About”, “Services”, “Contact”, etc. These are conventional, yet clear and recognizable.
Never compromise on user experience. Optimize your website to make it load quickly and to help visitors navigate from one page to another smoothly. Also, optimize your navigation for SEO performance. Get in touch with design and development experts who can help you with it.
Attach your website navigation to your business goals
User experience matters a lot. But also remember that your website exists to facilitate and amplify business. You should give great user experience to your visitors, and also enable them to reach the most important pages of your website. The ones that lead to sales and conversions. It is important to direct your visitors to those significant pages. And navigation affects the percentage of visitors converting into leads and customers.
So have pages that interest them, and also add links that direct them to an action or interaction – like a purchase. If you have a ‘blog’ menu on your site where you regularly upload blog posts, the content must be relevant and helpful to your target audience. If a blog post helps in making customers decide to buy a product(s), then it must have a link to that specific product page(s).
Everyone expects to easily find what he/she is looking for, and seamlessly move from one web-page to another. Unless they have plenty of time and patience, when visiting a website. Clear content and simple navigation can have a real impact on business value. So get it right, and you will have definitely have a better website and more fruitful conversions.