A visitor has landed on your website in search of something. Navigation is often the guide to what it is your visitor seeks. Something as simple as word choice can be the difference between a visitor finding what they’re looking for or leaving in frustration.
Effective navigation can facilitate a fruitful visit and increase the likelihood of a return visit in the future. Ineffective navigation can lead to an unproductive visit and feelings of frustration, which don’t generally bode well for a return visit.
Here are six best practices to bear in mind as you think about the navigation for your website.
Avoid Jargon in Website Navigation
Remember, your website navigation is not for you – it’s for your visitor. Don’t use language that only insiders will understand. If you’re unsure whether or not someone will know what you mean, try rewording it.
This is also a great time to ask for second opinions. Solicit feedback from people that aren’t as familiar with your industry about the type of content they’d expect to find if they clicked a certain part of your navigation. Such feedback can be enlightening.
Use Common Page Names in Website Navigation
As Louis Lazaris highlights in a post on Smashing Magazine, it’s important to align your navigation with the expectations of your visitors. Navigation is not a time to get overly creative with your word choice (design is another matter altogether). The goal is to provide users with a structured way to find what it is they’re looking for on your website.
Use common page names in your navigation, like:
- About Us
If you’re going to deviate from the norm, make sure it’s evident what a user can expect to find in each portion of your website. To learn more about organizing web pages in intuitive ways, check out our guide to common website structures.
Keep It Short
Sum up what information a visitor will find in a word or two. You don’t have much real estate in the navigation bar. And your users don’t have much patience. Be succinct.
Use Dropdown Menus in Your Navigation
If the pages in your navigation have subpages, you should include dropdown menus. Dropdown menus allow users to scan the different types of content in each section of your website without unnecessarily clicking through the pages of your site. By getting a feel for the content in each section, a user can make a more informed prediction as to where the content they seek resides within your site.
Make All Menu Items Clickable
If an item is in your navigation, make sure it’s clickable. For instance, even if you have an “Our Mission” page in a dropdown under “About” in your navigation, a visitor should be able to click on the “About” page if they’re so inclined. Going back to expectations, most users will expect these items to be clickable since they’re in your navigation.
Striving to meet visitor expectations whenever possible will lead to a much better user experience throughout your website.
Make Your Logo Take a User Home
There’s a good chance your website has a logo in the upper left. Make sure your logo is clickable and takes a user back to your homepage. This is a common convention and many visitors to your website will expect it to be the case.
Such simple improvements to your website’s navigation can have an impact on the overall experience a user has on your website.
What do you think? Does the navigation of a website impact your view of the site?