Imagine this: You’ve been wanting to treat yourself to a new digital camera for a while. Finally, you get the time to sit down, browse the websites of different brands online and pick your favorite new camera. After a few days of research you are now ready to make your purchase. But suddenly - horror of horrors - you can’t locate the “Buy Me” button, the shopping cart icon has disappeared, and the return policy is nowhere to be seen. It all seems far too complicated, and eventually, you give up in favor of another brand.
This is a classic example of how website navigation can make or break the user experience. Good website navigation can help users find the content they’re looking for, and offer them a positive experience that will encourage them to return. When you want to start with a website or webshop take into account that there are a lot of different aspects that influence a good user experience. Think about the visual appeal of your website, the layout, the structure of the menu, your use of text, call to actions and off course - the ease of navigation.
Here are 11 tips to improve your website navigation and get happy, returning visitors:
Plan the website navigation process
Prioritize the pages
Stick to conventions
Consider creating a sticky menu
Limit the number of items in your menu
Create mega dropdown menus
Add a search bar
Label your menu clearly
Link the logo back to the homepage
Indicate what page the user is on
Ensure the user can reach any page from any page
TYPES OF WEBSITE NAVIGATION
There are a wide range of website designs, each with unique content and structure. However, there are only a few standard website navigation strategies that are used in the online world. The website navigation menus help users navigate through the website with a lot of ease.
Navigation menu in the website’s header: This is a classic menu that appears at the very top of each page of your website, generally running horizontally across the screen. Just like on our website.
Sidebars on the left or right of a website: This is a menu that is located on the side of your page. It can be minimal, or can take center stage and become an integral part of the design.
Use a split up menu: Split up menu design is a new menu design that divides the standard menu. It breaks the standard menu by placing links to each page in the corners or sides of the website.
Hamburger menu bar: The hamburger menu style is often used on mobile devices, but it is slowly finding its way to the desktop versions of sites. It is a simple three-line icon that does not usually interfere with the website's design.
Website footer: The footer of your website is a suitable area to place your social media links and any related links you want to highlight.
Plan the website navigation process efficiently
Some things are best done spontaneously. But when it comes to creating your business website, a little forward-thinking is definitely a necessity. Before you jump right in, clarify which features and pages your website requires, and what their hierarchy should be. Do you need an ‘About Us’ page, a blog or an FAQ section? Which of these pages is most important or valuable for your website audience?
To plan your menu so it fits your needs you should create a sitemap. A sitemap is a list of all the main pages of your site and all the sub-categories within them. It should clearly indicate the important and secondary pages. Your sitemap will be the base of your navigation menu. To create one, you can use any method you find most comfortable - you can write it by hand, present it as a flowchart or diagram, or type it out on a spreadsheet.
For example, if you’re creating a website for a cosmetics brand, your main pages could be your homepage, product introduction, the about page and your online store. However, within your online store section, you may break it up into separate categories, such as skincare, hair products, and best sellers. This hierarchy should be visible in your sitemap.
Prioritize the pages- Hierarchy
When creating your sitemap, consider where you want your users to go. Where do you want to lead them to? How will they experience the many website pages systematically? Prioritizing certain pages will help boost the traffic to the site. While prioritizing, consider the products that are the most desired by customers. You can get accurate information about your users' likes and preferences through a thorough analysis of Google analytics.
Even within your main menu, you’ll have pages that are higher and lower in priority. Once you’ve prioritized your pages, it’s time to implement the same priority structure in the navigation menu design, making the most crucial pages stand out. A good method for doing this, and a general rule, is that the items that appear first or last on a menu attract more attention, so that is where you should place your high priority pages.
If your website has too much information to put into in a single header menu, create a secondary navigation menu. A secondary navigation menu will hold all the extra pages that are of less value but are still relevant and require a navigation menu. The secondary navigation menu should attract less attention; you may make it smaller with a less contrasting color.
What is intuitive to a user?
Sometimes it is better to stick to what the users are already aware of. Although we may often desire to create a daring website design with unique pages and navigation menus, it might be better to let the users use the common website navigation knowledge they already have. There must be a reason why hyperlinks are underlined and why the company logo is placed at the top left corner. These design conventions are familiar to almost all website users, and they will work for your website as well.
When it comes to website navigation, your desire is for the customers to have a smooth experience. Imagine if the website design and content are absolutely new to them, they will definitely have a hard time finding the information they need. Even when the design is all new, they will still anticipate the menu to be at the usual location.
If you want to break from the convention, don't do it at the expense of your web traffic. Only do it if it serves the purpose of the website right, and when it will make the user experience better.
Create a sticky homepage menu
If possible, consider creating a sticky menu. A sticky menu is a fixed/floating menu that sticks to the page even as the user is scrolling down the page. The sticky menu is essential as a customer does not have to scroll all the way back to the top just to click on another page. You will definitely improve user experience by saving their valuable time.
You could consider adding a ‘Back to Top’ button to help the users easily access other pages if you do not have a sticky menu. Whether you will go for a sticky menu or 'Back to top' button will also be determined by the website's design and layout. So, take your time and select the most user-friendly menu for your customers' easier navigation.
Use only a few items on the page and homepage menu
Try to limit the number of items in your menu. Users experience a lot of online distractions before they get to your site. So, give them a comfortable experience while they are on your website. Keep the categories on the menu at a maximum of seven. This will make the users understand the information at the top better so they can make more informed decisions. Also, they will reach their target pages quicker.
If your website contains a lot of information, try to break it down further by using a dropdown menu. When a user clicks on one category, the dropdown menu will give additional categories that a user can choose from. However, when possible, try to avoid these dropdown menus since when a customer clicks on a particular group, (s)he expects to be taken straight to that page. The extra step may interfere with the user experience.
Consider designing Mega Dropdown Menu
If necessary, incorporate mega dropdown menus. Usually, it is not possible to limit the number of items on the menu if the site has a large number of products. If the site has a lot of products or services, you need to create a mega menu. Mega menus consist of an extensive list of items that drop down from a navigation menu. The mega menu usually offers diverse options to access the listed products.
An excellent example of mega dropdown menus is eCommerce websites that sell various products. Try not to include all the products on the menu as it will look cluttered. Instead, create sub-categories for the products. This will allow users to access the products in a more orderly manner.
For instance, if you are offering wellness and fitness services, the main menu may include, for instance, 'Classes.' The 'Classes' item may contain a dropdown menu with subcategories such as 'stretching,' 'aerobics' etc. Under these subcategories, you will indicate all the different types of classes that your site is offering.
Plan and create a sitemap to effectively decide on the hierarchy of products and services on your website. A sitemap will help avoid confusion, clutter, or omission of important items. Use typography effectively to make the sub-categories to pop out. For instance, you may make them larger, bolder, or use a different contrast. You may also add an extra space between them for the users to distinguish them clearly.
Integrate a search icon
Your website users need to experience a seamless flow while on the site. A search bar is a convention that most website users are familiar with. So, when a new customer visits your site, (s)he will be able to easily navigate through your site.
Place the search bar close to your menu so that every user can search for items easily. It should be on the header level, and if needed you could make it sticky so that the user will still access it even when scrolling down the menu.
Clearly label all the menus-page and homepage menu
You probably already made a selection of the items to appear on your menu in the order of their priority. This is the time to strategically place them on the menu, with precise wording as well as labeling. Use crystal clear wording so that the users will easily understand the information. Do not use jargon when writing the menu details. Simply use descriptive terms that are clear and to-the-point.
If you are not yet sure which descriptive words are fit for your website, consider performing A/B tests on your site.
Connect the logo back to the homepage.
Many web designers make the mistake of not linking the business logo back to the homepage. The menu does not necessarily have to contain the item 'Homepage.' Instead, add your business logo to each page and link it to the homepage. This will give the users a more comfortable navigation experience in the site, and it will also be in line with the web design conventions.
Indicate which page the user is on
Make it clear to the user where (s)he is while surfing around your website to avoid making the user feel disoriented. There are diverse ways of telling the user where he or she is on the site. You may include a significant title that is easily visible to the users or adds breadcrumbs. Breadcrumbs are a list of all the pages that a user has visited before getting to where they are now. Also, a user could simply see the highlighted page on the menu. Highlighting a page on the menu is a very efficient method, and it does not lead to clutter as breadcrumbs do.
Create access of all pages from any page
Finally, ensure that the visitors on your website can access any page from their current page. Connect all pages in a harmonious way such that each page connects to the rest of the website.
First, ensure that all pages are accessible from the main menu. Then ensure that every page has a menu. To create more harmony, make sure that the web design is consistent throughout all the pages. Place the page menu and the navigation menu on the same spot in all the pages to avoid any confusion.
We hope that these 11 website navigation tips make it easier for you to find a way to improve the user experience on your website. Do not hesitate to contact our team if you have any questions.