Website Navigation: Our Top 8 Best Practices (2020 Edition)
A website’s navigation structure has a massive positive or negative impact on bounce rates, conversions, as well as sales. If a visitor is unable to quickly locate what he or she wants, they will simply leave. And some navigation practices can have a huge negative impact on search engine rankings. Below are some useful navigation best practices to keep in mind.
Take your time to sit down and draw up a menu structure that will seamlessly guide your visitors from the moment they arrive on your site to where they ask for more information or click on that magical ‘Buy’ button. Put yourself in the visitor’s position. Figure out what he or she will be looking for at any given stage, and make sure that option is no more than one or two clicks away.
When drawing up the menu structure there will be pages you consider more important than others. The navigation structure should reflect this. Make the most important pages stand out. As a general rule you can do this by placing them first or last on the menu to attract more attention. You don’t want your ‘Buy’ button to disappear in the crowd.
Label Menus Clearly
Once you’ve decided on the menu structure, the next step is to decide on the exact wording for each menu item. Avoid industry jargon – you might know what it means, your visitors might not. Instead, the text should be to-the-point, descriptive, and more than anything else, clear. Visitors should immediately understand where they will be taken to when clicking on a menu item.
Avoid Generic Options
Navigation labels such as ‘Photos’, ‘Videos’, ‘Products’, or ‘Services’ mean nothing to search engines, so they will not improve your search engine rankings. They also do not tell the visitor anything specific about your company and its products or services. If you use a ‘Products’ or ‘Services’ Able, for example, make sure it opens up a sub-menu with links to separate pages for each product or service.
Try Not to Use Dropdown Menus
Dropdown menus are popular among website owners. Research, however, shows they are generally speaking not as popular among website visitors. The reason is that people can not move their mouse as fast as their eyes. They prefer to scan a page in two seconds to find what they are looking for, instead of spending ten seconds on scrolling down a Drop down menu. Depending on the type of programming used, a Dropdown menu can also make things difficult for search engines.
When a Search Bar is a Good Option
If you are trying to become a rival to Amazon with its 50 gazillion products, navigating your product list will quickly become a nightmare without a search bar that is placed prominently on your website’s home page as well as on each individual products listing page. If you have a large website, a search bar with predictive results is a good idea. If the visitor starts typing ‘ca’, for example, he or she should already see a list of all the cameras that are available.
Every Page Should be Accessible From All Other Pages
If someone arrives on your home page and then navigates to your ‘About Us’ page, for example, he or she should be able to go directly to any other page from there without having to go back to the home page first. The best is to simply display the same main menu items on all your pages.
Don’t Become Too Creative
When designing the navigation structure of your website, it’s a good idea to stick to convention. The reason is simple: when it comes to navigating websites, people have become used to certain design principles. They expect the menu to be in the header of the website, or in the top left corner. You might get away with placing less important menu items at the bottom of the page, but if someone has to traverse a Hidden Treasure map to ‘Discover’ the menu items, chances are good that he or she will simply leave.