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Website Navigation Design Best Practices You Should Know

This article will provide you a list of all the website navigation design best practices you need to know in order to make your website perform as well as possible. We’ll tell you all the website navigation tips you need to know for your own website.

website navigation design

Website Navigation Design

When it comes to website design, you might not spend much time thinking about your website navigation. However, that is a huge mistake. Why? Because your website navigation design can have a huge affect on its performance. That’s because navigation impacts both traffic and conversions. Navigation can affect how high you rank, how much traffic you’ll get from search, how easy the site is to use for your visitors, and how many users convert into leads and customers. Not to mention, if users can’t quickly find what they’re looking for on your website quickly and easily, they might leave and never come back.

Types of Web Navigation

Before we get into the best tips for navigation design, first let’s discuss the types of web navigation. This can help you decide on the navigation structure for your own site.

Top Menu

What’s the first thing you think of when you picture website navigation? Most of us imagine the menu located at the top of the page. The reason why this type of navigation is so popular is because it is effective. That’s because it is aligned with the way we read pages: from top to bottom and then left to right.

Sidebar

Another option for website navigation is a sidebar menu. Sometimes, a sidebar is used to support the top menu. A sidebar is positioned to the left or right side of the web page, next to the primary content. If your website is extremely information-heavy, a sidebar navigation menu is an excellent choice.

Footer

Some websites use a footer navigation bar. This navigation technique is usually used on large websites with longer pages of content. A footer navigation bar is helpful because when a visitor reaches the end of the page, they can simply navigate to another page of your website with one click. If you choose a footer navigation bar, you should know all about footer web design.

website navigation best practices

Top Website Navigation Design Tips 

Be Descriptive in Your Labels

Many websites use generic menu items in their navigation like “What We Do,” “Products,” and “Services.” While these are perfectly fine, it’s better to use descriptive phrases in your navigation. If you really want to maximize your efforts, utilize keywords in your navigation.

Since it appears on every page, search engines look at your navigation bar to see what your website is about. If you use keywords that are relevant to your site, it can help improve your SEO. Generic phrases like services and products, however, are too common to be helpful for search engine optimization purposes.

Descriptive labels are helpful for your visitors, too. They will help your visitors find what they are looking for quicker, which will improve their overall experience with your site.

Don’t Use Format-Based Navigation

Format-based navigation is navigation that is grouped by kinds of content, like “Videos,” “Photos,” and more. However, we advise against using format-based navigation. That’s because people typically arrive at a website looking for an answer to a question, not a particular kind of content format. Additionally, like the tip above, these labels aren’t very descriptive, either.

Skip Dropdown Menus

Dropdown menus are popular in website navigation. However, they are not a good idea for search engines or visitors. That’s because dropdown menus are hard for search engines to crawl. They are also annoying for website visitors to use. It also can lead to visitors skipping important web pages. In some instances, if you have a large website with lots and lots of pages, a mega dropdown menu might be a good idea.

website navigation tips

Don’t Use Unlimited Menu Options

Have you ever seen a website with hundreds of links on its homepage? It’s not a good idea. Instead, you should limit the number of links in your website navigation menu to no more than seven. Choose the options that are most relevant for your visitors and for SEO purposes.

Instead of adding links to every page of your site in your navigation menu, utilize page linking. This means making sure your website contains many internal links. If you have a multitude of links in your navigation menu, it dilutes the amount of authority they have. It is also easier for users to have fewer options to choose from.

Consider the Order of Your Website Navigation

It’s not just the number of items you include in your navigation menu that matters, but also the order of those items. The options you include at the beginning and end of your menu will get the most attention, so that’s where you should place the most important pages. This is called the “serial position effect.” Items at the beginning of a list are easily remembered due to the primacy effect. Items at the end of a list are easily remembered due to recency effect. If you’re not sure which of your pages are the most popular, you can use Google Analytics to find out.

Optimize Your Website Navigation

You might know you need to optimize your web pages, but did you know you can optimize your website navigation, too? For example, a few weeks are designing your website navigation, you can use Google Analytics to see how it’s performing. Yes, Google Analytics can tell you which navigation items are most popular with your website visitors. You can check the “Navigation Summary” or “In-Page” view in the Behavior report. Or, you can check the Behavior Flow / User Flow reports.

From there, you can replace any items that don’t get clicked on very often, if they aren’t necessary in your navigation. Or, you can rename or relabel any that don’t get clicked often. A more tantalizing label might get more clicks. Last, you can move the items around in the navigation menu. You can move an item from the middle to the front or end so it attracts more eyeballs. A website is meant to be flexible and adapt as needed, so don’t be afraid to make changes.

types of web navigation

Don’t Forget Navigation for Mobile Devices

It’s important to have a navigation menu that is responsive on mobile devices, too, since these days so many people are looking at websites on their phones. This is called responsive web design.

Have you ever noticed the three short horizontal lines on the website on a mobile device? This often represents a menu. In the world of web design, this menu icon is often called the “hamburger icon.” Clicking on the hamburger icon reveals the mobile navigation menu. If you decide to utilize the hamburger menu, you might also want to add the word “menu.” If your navigation remains too hidden or small for visitors to find, this will give them a negative user experience.

Call to Action

Is there one particular action you would like users who visit your website to complete? For example, perhaps you want them to subscribe to your email newsletter. If so, include a link to a call to action page within your home page navigation system.

web navigation

Do You Need Help with Website Menu Design? 

No matter which phase you are at in your website navigation, it’s never too early or late to consider your website navigation design. We can help make sure your site is easy to navigate for both search engines and your visitors. If you need assistance designing any aspect of your website, SEO Design Chicago’s expert web developers can help! We design navigation menus for a variety of businesses, especially as part of a larger content marketing campaign.

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