Navigation is one of the most important aspects of a website’s design. Why? Because navigation on the site leads site users to the information they need. When site visitors can’t find what they need, they’ll quickly go to another website.
The results of poor site navigation are lower traffic, frustrated users, and decreased revenues. When Google sees site visitors leaving in droves, you can count on your site showing up lower in the search engine results. These results are not what a business needs to succeed.
The goal of website navigation is to help site visitors find what they need and want. Navigation should make everything on the site easy to find, including content, products/services, contact details, and more. Web designers need to ensure the sites they build use navigation that helps site visitors.
We’ve put together some tips and best practices to ensure your website navigation is the best possible!
When the menu isn’t readily visible or easy to find, site users will be lost. For instance, some designers may put the navigation menu under a hamburger menu. However, not many site visitors will think to check the hamburger menu for the site’s main navigation menu.
On the other hand, when the navigation menu is in clear sight, it’s easy to find. What’s more, placing site navigation with visibility in mind means visitors can recall the menu on their next visit.
The best position for the site nav menu is right where most people will look for it. Doing this ensures site users gain faster access to the information they need or want. For example, on some sites, the nav bar may be near the top of the page; however, on other sites, the navigation menu may be in the upper right corner of the page. The key is to put the navigation menu where your site visitors expect to find it.
Ensure the Header’s Sticky
Some websites may have tons of information to share with site users. On sites like this, visitors may need to scroll down the page to read and/or find the information they want. As the page grows longer, though, what happens to the navigation menu? Does it disappear as the user scrolls down the page? If so, that’s a problem.
The issue here is that the user may lose their ability to navigate to other parts of the site quickly. They have to scroll all the way to the top of the page to locate the nav bar. That’s annoying, and it wastes their time!
To fix this problem, create web pages that keep the navigation menu visible at all times. No matter how far a site visitor scrolls down the page, the nav menu should be visible. You can put the menu either at the top of the page or to the side of the page’s information (to the right or left, whichever your site users prefer).
Highlight the Current Page
Another problem, even for smaller websites, is that visitors may lose track of which page they’re reviewing. When this happens, it’s easy for them to become lost and unsure of where to go or what to do next.
There is a way to solve this problem. For a navigation menu placed at the top of the page, using a marker in the nav menu creates an easy and fast reference point. These are simple and easy to figure out, so a site visitor will always see where they’re located. Visitors may also see other pages they’d like to visit.
Use a nav marker that makes sense for your site. For instance, the current page may appear a certain colour. The colour could also be brand-related. Another option is to place a coloured line under the current page. The line is slightly more subtle and will not distract the user; however, they can clearly see their current page. It’s even possible to use a block of colour around the current page in the navigation menu. Doing so can be helpful for those who are older or have vision problems.
Design for Fast Scannability
Site visitors want to quickly and easily find what they need on the site. For this reason, it can be helpful to make the navigation menu easy and fast to scan.
One way to make the menu faster to read is to use 2-word labels. The labels are used for each menu item, which should be one or two words max. Using shorter terms helps visitors scan the information quickly and make a choice. Be sure to avoid using the same words to start items on the navigation list. Doing this slows down scanning ability, which could lead to frustrated site users.
Use Recognisable Icons
Icons can also be an essential design element on the navigation menu. Some designers like to get creative with navigation icons; however, if site users can’t understand them, the icons are useless.
On the other hand, visitors will quickly find what they want when icons are recognisable and paired with short text. Another concern is using icons that are appropriate for the site. For instance, an ecommerce site may not use the same icons as a tech site.
The key is to use the right icons in a way that site visitors easily understand.
Avoid Using All Caps
IS THIS QUESTION COMFORTABLE TO READ? Chances are your eyes felt a bit stressed by reading that question! Now you have a good understanding of how all caps can affect site visitors’ eyes. For one thing, using all caps reduces the readability of the text. Whether the text is a label or a sentence, the effect is the same.
So, it’s best to choose regular capitalisation for words in a navigation menu. For example, you might choose to capitalise the first letter of each word in a label.
A person can be overwhelmed by a significant number of objects or choices. Science has shown the average person can remember about seven objects/words in their short-term memory. For this reason, it’s crucial to keep the number of top-level menu items limited.
For websites with a complicated design, choose a few top-level navigation menus and then use a sub-menu for other options in the navigation.
Summing It Up
In the end, your site’s navigation menu needs to match your visitors’ expectations and needs. The best navigation menus include a limited number of options, which are clearly labeled. It’s also helpful to ensure there’s some type of indication of where a visitor is located.
Remember that site navigation is crucial to having a successful website! Keep visitors happy and make it easy for them to find the information they want. This way, you’ll have satisfied site users who come back for more!