Don’t you hate it when you are on a website and you can’t find what you are looking for? It’s like a bad game of detective—looking under carpets, spying in the cupboards and coming back with nothing but a headache. You know it’s there—somewhere—but you can’t find it.
For most of us this headache usually results in returning to our favorite search engine or giving up entirely.
Websites shouldn’t be hard to navigate. And, generally speaking, website navigation is an easy problem to fix.
Let’s get started:
1. Pay attention to how users currently navigate your website
Keep your users top of mind for every decision you make regarding your website. Understanding their behavior is vital to identifying the best structure for your website’s navigation. When you understand who your users are, what they need and what they do on your website, then you can better optimize the pathways for them to reach their destinations.
2. Make your navigation easy to learn & understand
Website navigation shouldn’t require a long learning curve. If it takes too long to distinguish titles, links, categories or buttons, something is up. Stay away from unnecessary complexity.
3. Be consistent throughout your website
Navigation that changes is difficult to decipher. Keep it consistent from one page to the next, or your users might be left scratching their heads.
4. Provide visual cues that let users know where they are
The more pages a website has the harder it is to figure out where you are in the flow of content. Including simple visual cues such as breadcrumbs can really help keep the confusion level on low.
5. Make sure users can find information quickly
Don’t make people dig far to find what they are looking for. Every action a user takes should bring them closer to their destination while removing as many non-destinations as possible from their search.
6. Make labels short and easy to understand
It might seem fun to use clever names for navigation, but they can be hard to understand. Use language your target audience knows. Refrain from using acronyms and jargon whenever possible, even if it means a longer link title.
7. Categorize your pages
Grouping content into logical categories is essential to any website with more than 10 pages. Categories help your users whittle down the possibilities. Use general categories fist and then get more specific—just remember to make sure the groups make as much sense to others as they do you.
8. Alphabetize long lists of links
When navigation lists are longer than 7-10 items it is often wise to alphabetize (hey that rhymed). At first, it might seem best to put links in order of popularity or importance—but people often don’t read all the words in the list, they tend to scan the first few letters. Alphabetizing long lists helps take the guess work out of the process.
9. If something isn’t working don’t be afraid to try something new
Your website doesn’t have to be like the Leaning Tower of Pisa—crooked and sinking. It’s relatively easy to make changes to a website. There is no reason to let a problem sit, stagnate and fester. The Internet is an exceptional place for good old-fashioned trial and error—or in web design terms A/B Testing. Don’t be afraid to test something new. You can always take a step backwards if you find yourself in too deep.
Learn more on our upcoming webinar…
Site navigation isn’t just a directional guide – it’s a powerful marketing tool for your business. Interested in learning more? Join Oneupweb for a free webinar, “Optimizing Site Navigation for Conversion” on Friday, March 28, 11:30am-12pm EST. Hope to see you there!