Why Does Website Navigation Testing Matter So Much?

Website navigation is simply defined as a way users navigate pages, content and information on a website. 

 In a recent study, only 50% of internet users were able to quickly figure out where relevant content could be found on a website. 

According to Nielsen Norman Group, leading researchers in how people use websites, “One of the biggest causes of user failure is when users simply can’t locate stuff on the website. The first law of e-commerce design states, ‘if the user can’t find the product, the user can’t buy the product.’ So these design flaws are not just usability problems, they’re often a site’s biggest profitability problems as well.”website navigation testing

In other words, if you want to make money, you need to make sure your website navigation is perfect. 

When your website navigation is off, people leave your site fast because they’re frustrated. They’ll turn to another site with better navigation. That means lost sales and leads. The number one rule of web design, according to expert Steve Krug, is, “Don’t make people think.” With a great website navigation, people won’t think at all. They’ll just instinctively know how to find what they’re looking for.

It’s like McDonald’s. Do you ever struggle to find what menu item you’re looking for when you’re looking at a menu? No. Your website users shouldn’t struggle either. McDonald’s calls it “chicken” chicken. They don’t call it poultry. A hamburger is a hamburger, not a cowpie. The easier you make the word choice on your site, the better. That said, some geniuses are able to break the rules. But you have to know the rules first. If you want to be a rule breaker, good for you. But you may want to consult with experts like us to make sure you’re breaking the right rules, the right way. 

The primary way to have great website navigation is to make sure you have an awesome, easy to spot and easy to understand menu. A website’s menu is the word combination/color choices you use to separate the categories of goods, services, contact info and about pages on your website.

For most websites, menu options fall into traditional categories. The most common is typically a horizontal list with anchor links that link to different pages, or products.

The menu, or navigation, appears either beneath the header across the entire width of the page (like the Chicago Sun Times), or under the header on the top right or left of the screen (like Ruby Love), or a menu that vertically on the left or right of the screen (like Sunglass Hut), or some combination of all of these (like Amazon). 

Another traditional type of menu is known as a sticky menu, or a fixed or floating menu. This menu stays put as visitors scroll down the site. 


There are other types of menus and navigation styles to help users find content on your site. 

These include:


Hamburger Design

Over the last few years, hamburger menus have become more popular. These are three vertical lines that users are supposed to know to click on, and then words will replace the lines. One example is this website

The pros of this type of menu is that they appeal to younger users, and they take up less space on mobile devices.

The cons are that older companies may not know to click on this style to see words. 


A Full Screen Menu

Some people really make website navigation tools stand out by placing the menu smack dab in the middle of a homepage, using a very large font, as this director does

One pro to this style is that your services and or products certainly stand out.

But more traditional clients may find this design too bold. 


A Static Icon that Leads to the Site

Some people feature an interesting design on the homepage. Once a person clicks on it, the menu appears.

Onerary does so here

While very artistic, one downside is that many people may not know to click on the image to find content on the site. 

As you can see, there are many different navigation menu styles and tools. That’s why it’s so important to not just go with the style that seems right to you. You must test your website’s navigation on real people, who know nothing about your business and aren’t your friends.

pictures of static icons

What is User Testing? 

Watching real users as they navigate your website will help you move beyond initial assumptions to understand the strengths and weaknesses of your navigation tools. At SEO Design Chicago, we find users for you, and test your site. You can watch the tests with us, or we’ll show you the results of what users found easily, and couldn’t find at all, on your site.

 We reveal and diagnose website navigation issues and give you expert insights and actionable website redesign recommendations on how to improve navigation and refine information architecture to help users find what they need on your website. 

We can ask users about a bunch of other stuff too, like what they feel when they see your logo, what they think your company name means, if they understand your tagline and how they feel after visiting your site. We also ask them what they remember about your site. If the answer is “nothing,” then we’ll help you redesign your site so they at least remember your company name. 

We are UX researchers. That means we observe participants, but don’t give them prompts, as they complete tasks on your desktop or mobile site.

Navigation testing helps answer questions like:


  • Where do people seek out information on a given product? 
  • Do they see and understand the words in the navigation menu?
  • Which navigation categories are performing well? Poorly?
  • What do they click on first? 
  • How quickly can people find information on your site? 
  • Why do people abandon orders?
  • Are the names of the categories understandable? 
  • Are the menu names different enough from one another? 
  • Why aren’t people visiting a specific site area? 
  • Do people know how to find the information on how to contact you? 
  • Do users understand the terms you use in your navigation? 
  • Which page versions do they like better? A or B? 
  • Which navigation components are utilized?
  • Which navigation components go unnoticed?
  • Which navigation components are avoided?
  • Do the category names accurately convey content?
  • Is content categorized in a user-centered manner?
  • What do people click on first? 


Why Can’t I just Ask My Friends and Family These Questions for Free?

Hopefully, your friends, family and employees love you. That’s great, but that also means they won’t give you totally honest answers. They don’t want to hurt your feelings. Also, if they don’t answer the way you want them to, you’ll probably start explaining your intentions. But guess what? Real people don’t have you hovering over their shoulders, explaining what you meant, when they’re looking at your website. 

To get reliable and valid results from your website navigation testing, you need to recruit test participants who represent a sample of your users, considering factors such as demographics, behaviors, needs, preferences, income levels and motivations. You should also recruit enough participants to ensure statistical significance. The exact number of participants will depend on your testing method, budget, and timeline, but a general rule of thumb is to have at least 5 participants per demographic. 


What can I expect from Seo Design Chicago’ website navigation testing?

Whether you’re evaluating a current structure or exploring future options, you’ll receive concrete guidance for organizing your information so users can accomplish their goals.

Though website testing is typically performed prior to deploying a website, it can also be performed at any time after the site is live in order to find and address any issues that are hindering the site’s performance. 

Our years of experience guarantee that you’ll have an intense and thorough understanding of what users do when they’re on your site. We help you uncover trends that you may not discover on their own.

After analysis, we give you actionable recommendations to ensure that users can accomplish key tasks quickly and easily.

We work with companies and brands you know. Because we want to protect their privacy and trade secrets, we keep their identities private. But you can read about our case studies here


How quickly can you get results?

We work with each client to set a realistic timeline depending on their research questions and if they are looking for users who have no knowledge of your industry or some knowledge. Although timelines can range from 2-7 weeks, our average time from project kickoff to delivery of a final report is about 6 weeks.pictures of website navigation results


How do we select participants for user testing? 

It depends on the format; for unmoderated testing, anywhere from 30 to 500 people will provide sufficient data about what’s working on your site and what isn’t. We often recommend combining moderated (typically 8-12 people) and unmoderated testing, so you can reach a large sample size while still staying within a reasonable budget. 

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