When you are looking at your website, your expectation should be of having easy navigation and user-friendly experience. Unfortunately, not every website designed has these qualities. As a website owner, it is your responsibility to let people know where they are and which is the path they should take to reach their destination.
Any confusion in navigation simply results in an increase in bounce rate. An increase in bounce rate further leads to a lower search engine ranking. In addition to that, conversion rate majorly depends on navigation. So it makes sense to get the navigation right. Here are the top website navigation best practices you need to follow.
1. Give preference to customer needs
You would like to organize your website based on where you would like your potential customer to go first, second, third, etc. This is where most of the new web designers and business owners go wrong. Here the idea is to put the visitor needs first.
Playing with visitor needs can force the visitor to close the window. Hence, it makes sense to organize your website based on where your visitors like to go first, second, third, etc. For instance, visitors first like know more about your business, followed by details of products and services, and then your contact page.
Building the navigation keeping visitors choices in mind increases the chances of conversion. So, the first and most important tip focuses on the visitor needs more than your needs.
2. Add the search function
This might look obvious, but believe it or not many business owners forget to add this vital component on their website. A search function makes it easy for visitors to search for exactly what they are looking for.
Why search function is needed if my navigation is just fine? Sometimes, users find it difficult to find the call to action button or they do not have the patience to scroll the whole web page to discover. So it is always best to include a search function, where they can directly type and navigate to whichever section they want.
3. Be a guide
If you have a website, it is common to get different types of visitors. Some visitors know exactly where they have to go and some don’t. As a webmaster, it is your duty to take care of all the types of visitors.
Your navigation should be easy to understand for those who know where to go next, and as well as it should be a guide for the people who do not know where to go next. Here is what you can do.
Add links to other content at the end of each content
Include a sidebar with suggested pages
Add a link to the review pages at the bottom of the product or service page
4. Prefer function over SEO
Search engine optimization is important. Being said that function is also pretty much important. It is not a good idea to compromise function over SEO. You may get an SEO benefit, but in the end, you may lose a lot of conversion opportunities.
Using keywords and other SEO strategies into your menu can end up with the unnatural sounding headings. As a result, it creates confusion. How to fix this issue? Keep SEO out of your menus. After all, you don’t want to rank your website on Google’s first page to increase the bounce rate.
5. Do not categorize based on the format
Navigation labels such as videos, photos, and audio divide the content on your website based on the format of the content. This will weaken your website navigation. That’s because people don’t come to your website looking for the format of the content. They visit to find some information.
Hence, it makes sense to categorize the content based on topic. So that it becomes easy for the visitors to opt the right category to find the information they are looking for.
6. Avoid drop-down menus
Web designers usually ask the web owners to not to use drop-down menus. There are two reasons for it. One, they can cause problems during crawling. Actually, not all drop-downs are going to create a problem, it totally depends on how they are programmed.
The other reason for not to use drop-down menu is they are not user-friendly and many internet users find them annoying. More importantly, dropdowns make the user skip important pages, which is not a good thing.
7. Avoid over creativity
When it comes to navigation, simplicity always works. Sometimes website owners tend to do things differently and creatively. Consequently, they end up making the navigation complicated. Make sure the symbols and navigation tools are easy to understand. Do not use any symbols that increase the difficulty of the visitors to guess its meaning.
In short, pick the symbols that are easy to guess. Getting too much creative will not impress them, rather it confuses them. It is that aspect of your website, where you should not go for trial and error methods. We suggest you play safe.
8. Link the logo back to the homepage
Well, this might sound obvious but still many people miss this point. A homepage is called a homepage for a reason. It should be just one click away from any webpage of your website. The best way to this is by linking the logo back to the homepage.
Normally, the logo is placed at the two places. That is in the top left corner or top center. This is the convention followed by the majority of the websites across the globe. Visitors are habituated to this convention and they look at the logo at these place to return back to the home page.
9. Be descriptive
You should be as descriptive as possible without making it too long. Now this one is pretty difficult and requires some good skills to succeed. Let us explain this. Do not make your navigation menu a vague list of headings. If a visitor does not make out what each option in your menu is, they will not continue to browse further. In short, say more using fewer words. Do not try to be creative with words. It is a menu, not a blog.
10. Keep the menu short
Along with your business, your website grows. You may want to increase the number of options in your menu, and try to help the visitors. However, this will work against you. A lengthy menu creates confusion. Moreover, they are not user-friendly.
Keep your menu options up to seven. The advantage of keeping a short menu is that it does not consume visitors’ time. In addition to that, it is that part where you can improve your SEO. Each menu option counts as a link to each web page. Your homepage should never have too many links. That’s because too many links are the invitation for Google penalty.
11. Check your mobile navigation
Once you have followed all the above mentioned best practices, check whether everything on your website is running smoothly. After that, browse your website on mobile and repeat the check. This is necessary because sometimes menus and search functions get distorted on the mobile. If you find any issue, talk to web design experts.
12. Go for a single phrase style
This is one of the most important website-navigation best practices. It is really vital to choose your phrase style. There are three main types of phrase styles.
Action-based: This phrase style focuses on action. For instance “Order,” “Call Us,” or “Book An Appointment” encourage visitors to take some action.
Object-based: These phrases provide clear information about what each menu option includes. For example “Store,” “Order Forms,” “Contact Information,” etc.
Audience-based: Use this phrase style if you target various different types of visitors. “Primary Students,” “High School Students,” and “Teachers” are the examples.
13. User-Friendly Language
Many people neglect menu navigation language and labeling. Doing so can complicate the navigation. Increase in competition encourages business owners to be different and stand out. Yes, it is actually a good thing but you should not compromise clarity for this. You cannot afford to be creative at the cost of clarity.
If you have an industry-specific website, do not assume that your visitors are experts. Always give consideration for how would they interpret and understand the words you use for navigation. For example, If you were to label a shop area ‘Marketplace’ this is not the term users are aware of, it opens the door for interpretation, which increases the confusion.
Your links should not take more than a second to figure out where it is going to take us. If you are not sure which wording works best, conduct A/B testing. Web designers usually recommend keeping primary navigation simple and confusion-free. Therefore, it is best to avoid experiments with primary navigation.