Have you ever noticed how torturous some websites are to navigate? Indeed, even some of the best-known websites are difficult to find your way around. You know what you want. And you know it must be on the website somewhere. But sometimes, it feels like the web designer has deliberately made things difficult to find.
If you persevere on sites with poor navigation, you are in the minority. Most people will spend only 20 seconds on a site before they give up. So, if you are also a website owner, you can’t guarantee that your visitors will be as patient as you.
So, what makes the difference between well-designed website navigation and an impenetrable maze? Well, the principles of good navigation are more straightforward than you may have thought. Here are ten essential tips to make your website a breeze to navigate.
Table of Contents
Think How a Visitor Thinks
The first step to good website navigation is to put yourself in the shoes of a typical visitor. So, instead of placing what you think is essential first, consider the order in which users will want to discover your content.
Remember, new visitors to your site don’t know their way around as you do. And they don’t know anything about your brand. So, use the navigation to guide people on their journey of discovery.
For example, the first thing people will probably want to know is what makes your company different, what your brand values are, and, of course, what you sell. Plus, they will want to know they can trust your company. So, your site’s About Us page should be easy to find from any landing page a visitor might arrive on.
Stick to the Conventions
A simple menu with options for Home, About Us, Contact Us, and FAQs (frequently asked questions) might seem a bit boring. But it is what people are used to seeing, so they know what the options mean. People are also used to seeing hyperlinks in blue and search boxes somewhere at the top of a website, so why reinvent the wheel?
The more intuitive navigation is, the faster people will find what they need. So, it is generally best not to get too creative with your website navigation. Instead, stick to the conventions with which people are already familiar.
Direct Users to Related Content
A simple way to improve navigation on a website is to direct users to related content from within a page. This type of navigation can be achieved via hyperlinks, calls to action (CTAs), or related content widgets or plugins.
Hyperlinks and CTAs are generally best used when you have specific content you want a user to read. For example, a hyperlink might be used to direct a user to some supporting information. And a CTA would be used to prompt a user to take action like subscribing to a mailing list or buying a product.
Related content widgets or plugins are best used to direct users to other pages related to the topic of the current page. Blog posts on a similar topic, for example, or similar products in an online store.
Avoid Using Multilevel Menus
Navigation is at its best when the user can see all the options without taking any action. However, some websites will have too many pages and options to avoid drop-down menus entirely. Still, it is advisable to avoid using multilevel drop-downs where possible because they are tricky to navigate and not very intuitive.
In an ideal world, you wouldn’t use drop-down menus at all. Instead, it would be better to limit the number of menu items and then provide further navigation options when the user arrives at the relevant page
Always Have a Search Function
Even a website with few pages can be tricky to navigate if you don’t know your way around. So, it is always best to include a search function on a site. However, the standard search features on some content management systems are pretty basic. For example, they don’t have auto-suggest, and they don’t include a thumbnail preview. So, it is often best to use a custom widget or plugin search feature to give users the best experience.
Breadcrumbs are the trail of topic categories you may have seen at the top of some web pages. Each item of a breadcrumb is a text link leading to a category of pages on a website. This type of navigation aid typically looks like; Web Design > User Experience > Navigation > 10 Tips to Make Your Website Easy to Navigate.
Breadcrumbs take up little space and do not detract from the content. And they are easy to implement using plugins like Yoast. What’s more, many users are familiar with breadcrumbs, so this simple addition to a site is an easy way to improve navigation. And breadcrumbs are also beneficial for search engine optimization (SEO).
Add a Sitemap to Your Website
Sitemaps may seem a bit outdated, and you may have thought that people don’t use them. But a well-laid-out sitemap can be an excellent aid to navigation. And it is always best to provide multiple ways for a user to navigate a site.
Sitemaps act as a directory of a website that some users will visit when other navigation methods have failed. Sitemaps are also beneficial for SEO. So, it will help a user navigate your site if you put some thought into your sitemap and format it so that it is easy to use. Group content together by topic, for example, rather than merely listing the pages in date order. And include an HTML sitemap for the benefit of users and an XML sitemap for the search engines.
All navigation options must be easy to find and read. So, avoid using small fonts on menus, for example. And use contrasting colors for hyperlinks and calls to action. Navigation should also be divided into logical groupings.
The titles and hover descriptions of navigation items should be unambiguous and, of course, accurate. And it is better to use text rather than icons. Indeed, simple is always best when it comes to website navigation.
Like everything on a website, it is best not to assume that you will get the navigation right the first time. So, test all your navigation options and try to look at your site as a user would. Or, even better, ask someone unfamiliar with the layout of your site to test the navigation for you.
And don’t forget to test navigation on a variety of devices. Menus that look amazing on a desktop, for example, may get distorted on a mobile device. And, if you place navigation items too close together, they may be challenging to use on a tablet or phone.
The best way to sum up the above is; keep it simple and make it intuitive. Because you never want users to get confused or lost on your site. So, limit the number of navigation options if you can, and guide the user to the next step when necessary. And never assume that your user will know where to go next. Instead, provide multiple ways for a visitor to navigate around your website.