5 Best Practices to Improve Your Website Navigation
One of your business’s main digital marketing goals should be to create a website that prioritizes user experience, and your website’s navigation plays a huge role in this. Website navigation refers to the menus on a website that direct users to internal pages on that site. It includes the top menu bar, links in the footer, and sidebar menus. Ultimately, it can make or break your visitors’ experience, as well as when and where your business appears online in search results. Attempting to navigate a website without a logical, well-defined structure can be overwhelming, frustrating, and just plain annoying.
No matter what type of business you have, users are coming to your website to do something, whether it’s buying clothes, applying for a job, or just simply finding out more information about you. Navigation is what helps them find their way and find exactly what they’re looking for. You can have the most amazing content and the most visually appealing website, but without a great navigation structure, your users will most likely get frustrated and leave.
Navigation is crucial to the success of your website.
We love making websites better, which is why we’re sharing five ways you can optimize your website’s navigation for your users to have the ultimate journey.
Start with a sitemap
It’s good to have a mental picture of how your site will look and operate, but you can’t rely on that mental roadmap alone.
A site map is a list of all the pages on your website. It outlines your pages by starting with primary categories and themes and then defining pages within those main ideas. Use the site map to determine which primary navigation items you need across your main nav and footer.
If we want to get technical, a sitemap is a file that provides information about the pages, videos, and other files on your site and the relationships between them. Search engines like Google read this file to crawl your site more efficiently, which helps your SEO/SEM efforts too!
In sum, A sitemap can help you clarify what your site’s goals are before you start the design or content development process. By deciding exactly what you want from your site and then mapping it out, you can ensure that every part of your website is reinforcing your business goals.
Avoid using numerous dropdown menus
Hovering over a header menu item to find a dropdown menu has been a website navigation staple for years. Recently web designers began dropping the dropdowns! These menus did a great job of de-cluttering your home page yet failed to provide the user with a positive navigational experience.
The reality is that over half of all internet traffic is on mobile devices. Dropdowns were created before the smartphone revolution, so consideration for usability on a touchscreen handheld device just wasn’t there. Mobile navigation should be visible on the first screen experience and require minimal touch points.
Although dropdown menus are on the out doesn’t mean you will have to restructure your whole website. For instance, try using responsive navigation, such as a hamburger menu. This will allow for more consistent control over your user’s experience across multiple devices.
Make call-to-action (CTA) buttons stand out
Depending on the purpose of your website, a call-to-action button could be incredibly useful when it comes to effectively driving traffic. The right CTA can also improve your click-through rate and help you turn more leads into customers. These buttons are also ideal for when you want a potential customer to fill out a form, share your content online, or even sign up for an event you’re promoting. Precise and catchy phrases will perform much better than the usual “click here” button.
Use accurate navigation titles
Use accurate text to describe the linked page so visitors know what they’re going to get. Cryptic or misleading navigation text confuses and annoys visitors, possibly to the point of site abandonment. Make sure all link verbiage, whether textual or in an image, accurately portrays the corresponding pages.
We’d also recommend limiting the number of items on your main navigation to no more than seven. More extensive lists tend to clutter the users’ minds and disorient them as they navigate your site.
Also, it’s crucial that you place your menu items in the proper order. Due to the serial position effect, the audience will most likely remember your list’s first and last items. If there is an emphasis on specific pages or content to be explored, such as the CTA button, be sure to list it either first or last on the navigation menu. These practices will lead to an extended visit duration and decreased bounce rate.
Accessibility for disabilities
One of the cornerstones of an accessible website is keyboard navigation. To be considered accessible, users must be able to navigate your site without a mouse. This is because many assistive technologies depend on keyboard-only navigation.
Therefore, you should ensure that users are able to navigate and browse your site using only a keyboard. This includes accessing pages, clicking on links, etc. To test this, you can visit the front end of your website and try navigating around the page using the Tab key. Hitting the Tab key should let you jump to different areas on the page. If it doesn’t, you’ve likely got some work to do.
How do I know if I’ve improved my website navigation?
An easy, effective way to test your site’s navigation is to first browse a competitor’s website. Take notes on what you like and don’t like. Then, go back to your own site and perform the same navigation and note-taking process. Finally, try comparing notes and see where your own site has opportunity for improvements.
Of course, an even better way to test is to use your site’s analytics to see how visitors are navigating through your site. The more user-friendly your navigation experience is, the more time users will want to spend on your site.
To sum it up, just be conscious of your business goals and align your website navigation strategy to support them. Overcomplicating the menus, making certain features difficult to find, and using misleading words will confuse visitors and make them abandon ship in no time, costing you those precious conversions! The usability of your website’s navigation has a direct impact on the time users spend on your website, their opinion about your company, and whether they’ll convert. So follow these best practices to offer an outstanding navigation experience!