Don’t Lose Your Users! Make Your Website Navigation Simple


- Lance Johnson 02.01.2016

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Imagine yourself being unceremoniously dumped in the midst of an intricate labyrinth, left alone to find your way around. Without a map, you keep hitting dead ends and ultimately lose track of where you started from. Even if the labyrinth is a picturesque sight to behold, do you feel the exasperation? This is exactly how the users feel when they land on to a site with confusing navigation, leaving them staring uncomprehendingly at pages, speculating where to go or what to do to get to a certain page. Chances are the user won’t have the perseverance required to diligently work through the path and would simply bounce off to the welcoming domain of your contender! 
A website’s navigation is one of the most imperative elements to get right and one that keeps the user from hitting the backspace button. A clear and intuitive navigation gently guides the users through page after page, keeps them engaged, and pushes them through the conversion funnel.  You want the users to have a great experience at your website, and garnering a viable, well thought out navigation menu prevents the users from drilling laboriously for information and getting exasperated.  Here’s how you can glean a successful navigational menu on your website! 

 

1. Keep the Options Simple

If you give a person a basketful of options to choose from, they would take a longer time to decide. When it comes to a website, the longer a user takes to decide, the more there is a chance of a bounce off. When presented with fewer options, the users can quickly evaluate their options and make a choice. Most websites try to cram everything they can on their primary navigational menu so that the users would have an instant access to every page within a site. Overcrowding is especially popular on sidebar navigation menus, because designers perceive that they can extend it indefinitely since the user is accustomed to scrolling vertically. More often than not, this backfires. The users would be overwhelmed by the plethora of choices and confused where to go. When designing primary navigation for your site, try to narrow down the elements to the minimum, most imperative ones! In addition, if your menu incorporates several pages, it is a good option to separate them into categories to avoid cluttering the navigation gratuitously.

2. Consistency

Achieving consistency across the entire website fortifies the faith of the users in your website and helps them feel comfortable and “at home” as they peruse through the pages. When navigation menus are found at the exact same place and in the exact same model at every page of the website, it helps the users find the information they are looking for easily. 

3. Placement of the Navigation Menu

The placement of the navigational menu is also imperative. Because users are accustomed to read from left to right and top to bottom, top notch navigational design calls for left hand or top navigation. Navigation on the right side is disorienting and meddling for most customers. Also, the consumers construe the website logo to be a link to the homepage, and expect to see a summation of all the navigational links orderly displayed at the bottom of the page.

4. Use Logical Nav Bars

The Nav bar is a crucial website navigation feature to implement flawlessly. Make sure that all the buttons and links in your Nav bars are organized in a logical and intuitive order, in which you expect the user to proceed. E.g. the “About us”, “company”, and “Products” page should precede the “Contact us” page, since the contact page signifies a lead generation opportunity that the user is more apt to explore only after he is done with his research. To incorporate an intuitive layout in your website as a whole, make sure you only include pages that integrate key information. A few main pages, a couple of top level subject pages, and a few subpages are enough. 

5. Clear and Descriptive Menu

Your menu links should be able to do exactly what they say. Use obvious and simple terms for menu buttons that would easily resonate with your visitors. If you leave people to solve a puzzle, they won’t stick around for long. If it takes more than a minute to figure out which link to click on, the user experience would be ruined. In addition, avoid using generic captions, such as “Products”, “About us”, for each business. They do nothing to communicate with your users and render your business a faceless organization.
 Your navigation menu should describe what the user would find once he clicks on the link. The language of the navigational elements should reflect the tone of the site. For instance, instead of “services”, the caption could say something warm along the lines of “what can we do to help”. Don’t be afraid of using a few words! Bonus: search engines favor descriptive anchor texts, so it would elevate the ranking of those pages!

6. Accessibility

Here’s the deal maker (or breaker): Make sure that your website navigation works flawlessly and without a glitch.  A CSS menu should work on all browsers, with disabled java, on mobile devices, for users with difficulty reading texts, and without a mouse. All the navigational elements should be clickable. If you use multiple categorical divisions in your navigation, make sure all the headings are working, clickable links, as well as the sub categories, if using a drop down menu! Check that all the drop-down menus are appearing on hover or click seamlessly, without any interruption. If the drop-down menus are too heavy, they would take more than an instance to appear (Red flag).  

7. Incorporate a Search Feature

When it comes to a content intensive website, it becomes exasperating for users to stroll down relentlessly, or click on every link to find some information they had previously spotted. Incorporate a search feature in your navigation and make sure it works. Even if the user search for a product and the results come in empty, it should be able to display related or similar products to the users.

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