Effective Website Navigation

Nothing aggravates a website visitor more than not being able to find the information they want on your website. Whether it’s broken links or vague menu headers, poor navigation leads to an increased bounce rate and frustrated prospects and customers.

Great news about your website’s navigation issues is they can usually be corrected without creating a new website. Or if you’re in the midst of a website redesign, it’s always wise to start with your navigation.

Before we jump into the principles of good navigation and details about your options, keep in mind this rule of thumb: your website navigation should allow someone to land on any page on your site and find what they need within three clicks. Try it on your site. Go ahead. We’ll wait.

Oh, good, you’re back. If it took more than three clicks to get to any page on your site, especially the important ones, you’re in the right place.


Principles of Website Navigation


Confuse a website visitor and they will click away from your site faster than new social channels flame out. Avoid the jump. Maintain consistent navigation and elements throughout your website. Use the same color for links inside your website copy. Leave your menu bar the same on every page. Use a limited number of page designs so your visitor understands where to look for information.



Minimalism is in whether you’re talking about website design or interior design. Group all your content into a maximum of seven menu items. Limiting your menu allows it to remain consistent with responsive design and prevents a crowded representation.



If you’re using “service” or “solutions” as menu items you aren’t doing your visitors any favors. We’re constantly walking a fine line between industry jargon your customers don’t understand and vague headers that don’t tell them anything. It’s important to get this piece right, though. Your headers are part of your SEO strategy and setup. Use common keywords or phrases that actually tell what your company does without straying into industry terms your customers won’t know or search for.



Once you’ve decided on your menu items, rank them in importance to your business goals. What do you want people to do or remember when they visit your website? When given a list of items, people are more likely to remember the first two and last two items on the list. Which means you should place your two most important items first and number three and four last in your menu. All the other menu headings can go in the middle. 



If all else fails, check the map. A site map on your website helps you visually see all the pages and their hierarchy, it helps search engines organize your page, and it allows your site visitors to find a page that for whatever reason they couldn’t find through your navigation. While some lost visitors will leave your site, the really interested ones will check out your sitemap before they bail.


Types of navigation

Now that you know what terms you want to use and how you’re organizing your content, (easy breezy, right?) let’s talk about the technical options for presenting those menu items to the world.

Header Menu

A large number of websites use links along the top of the page to direct you further into the website. This menu remains visible on every page of your site (except perhaps a landing page). Site visitors are accustomed to seeing your menu here. The ease and comfort of this menu location means more visitors will keep clicking.

One note about header menus. While you use only seven menu headings, it’s tempting to use drop down menus from those headings to offer additional options to your visitors. Don’t. Drop down menus are annoying to website visitors and encourage them to skip other important pages on your site. Instead, link your header menu to pages with further options. 



These menus which line the side of a page have picked up steam lately, especially with ecommerce sites. You can choose to have the menu visible all the time or allow visitors to collapse the menu so they don’t see it while they view your content.



This menu option was born out of the responsive website movement. Instead of a clunky header menu, websites have three lines that open to reveal the menu. The lines sort of look like a sandwich which led to its name. This menu has grown in popularity not only for mobile sites but for desktop versions as well.


Fat Footer 

Remember how we said “only seven menu items” in your main navigation? Well, your footer allows you to expand those options. It’s so popular that many of your visitors will be accustomed to it and may even look for it on your site. Bonus: all those menu items you can include increases your SEO. Don’t go crazy. It’s not the place for an entire sitemap, but it does open the options for you to link to other important pages on your website from the homepage.


Who knew choosing your navigation could be so important and detailed? You haven’t even thought about design or other content yet. Let us partner with you to create a website that supports your business priorities and grows your bottom line. Email us to get started.


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