Navigation on any website should be easy to follow. However, with so much you want to highlight and show any potential visitors, it can get really messy – fast!
Your visitors want to find what they need and what they’re interested in quickly and smoothly, otherwise they’ll get frustrated and leave your site without a second glance. This means you’ve lost a potential new customer – but the VERY worst case scenario is they’ll share their disappointment over your site with all of their friends – meaning you’re potentially losing out on LOTS of potential new customers.
So how can you ensure your navigation isn’t taking your visitors on a magical mystery tour?
#1: Keep your navigation standard and consistent
Visitors are used to seeing primary navigation as either a horizontal or vertical bar – so look to avoid surprises by keeping yours the same! Select just one and stick with it on all of your pages (except opt-in and sales pages). It’s also worth remembering that you need to keep clicks to a minimum – you want visitors to go from one page to another, in 3 clicks or less.
#2: Use descriptive labels, not generic ones
Your navigation labels need to be descriptive for you and what you offer, so avoid the generic ‘about us’, ‘products’ etc. Look to name your labels with your course titles, add your name to the ‘about’ page label and so on.
#3: Don’t overwhelm your visitors – keep to 7 or less labels
The main purpose of your navigation is to send visitors to the primary areas of your site, so keep your labels to a minimum. Seven or less is a good target to aim for, otherwise your visitors will get overwhelmed with the choices available. To make it even easier to minimise your navigation labels, look to add your ‘about’, ‘privacy’ and legal pages to your footer bar.
#4: Always have a home button on the left-hand side of your navigation bar
This is standard so visitors will always know where to look for it – plus it helps them navigate to your home page, fast! It’s also worth making your logo clickable and point it to your home page too.
#5: Keep dropdown menus to a minimum
Dropdowns don’t always work on mobile devices, so keep them to a minimum (or do away with them altogether).
#6: Colour contrast your navigation
This helps your navigation menu stand out from the rest of your site. If your visitors have to hunt for your navigation bar, they WILL leave.
#7: Remember sidebars, footers and navigation bars are not the same thing!
The navigation bar is for your primary areas, the sidebar is for external links and extra features, including tag clouds and opt-in forms.
#8: Prioritise your navigation labels
Look to put the most important labels at each end of your navigation – as most people are naturally drawn to focusing on those areas. This means the labels with lesser importance go in the middle.
#9: Add a search function to your navigation
This makes it super easy for visitors to find what they need, quickly and efficiently.
#10: Consider adding breadcrumbs to your website
Adding breadcrumbs will help visitors know exactly where they are on your site. Breadcrumbs are a secondary navigation system that shows them the route they took to get where they are e.g.: home > courses for 2016 > my super special course > course detail.
These 10 pointers should help you make your navigation easier to understand. Which was the most informative or surprising for you? Now you know them, have you altered your navigation bar and achieved better visitor statistics? Why not share your experiences in the comments box below!
Image © Becky Stares/Dollar Photo Club