Improve your site navigation

Andrea Ferguson

President at AndiSites Inc.
Andi is founder and President of AndiSites Inc. She writes about website design and development, best practices, and random stuff her busy brain thinks would be useful.
Andrea Ferguson

If users can’t find your website content easily, they’ll get frustrated or leave. So keep it simple, go with what people expect (rather than trying to be clever), and think from your user’s perspective.

Here’s a great post from Web Designer Depot on improving your site navigation. Lots of useful stuff to note here, and I encourage you to keep this in mind as your working on your own site. The highlights:

1. Boring is good. Don’t make your users think. Use a standard interface and location for your navigation menu (e.g., a horizontal bar at or near the top of your site), and visitors will spend less time on your navigation, more time on your content.

2. Tell it like it is. Remember that in search engines people will typically type terms like “products,” not “creations.” They’ll look for your “services” rather than “stuff we do.”  So make your navigation items clear and transparent. Search engines will find your site more easily, and site users will find your content more easily.

3. Pare it down to the essentials. Dropdown menus within dropdown menus are annoying, confusing, and not mobile-friendly. Do you really need that many separate pages? Better to edit your content down (less is more); and if putting several topics on one page makes users scroll forever, try using collapsible panels so that only what’s desired shows.

4. Be standards-compliant. Use text links for navigation, not buttons (buttons, especially if they’re image-only, can’t be indexed by search engines).

5. Pay attention to the placement of items. Studies show that users pay the most attention to the links on the left and the right of a menu bar, so put your most important calls to action there (HOME or ABOUT at the front, CONTACT at the end). For the items in the middle, arrange them as you’d like users to progress through your site. Think as if you’re telling a story. Also think carefully about having items like SUPPORT be on your main navigation (especially in close proximity to your PRODUCTS item)–you don’t want to send the message that contacting you for support is a natural next step to buying your products, or that it’s so common that it deserves a place in your main navigation. There are a lot of ways to show your SUPPORT (like our orange tab on the side of the screen) without making it a part of a user’s main site experience.

Trends will come and go, but the standards of good usability are here to stay. Follow them, and watch your page visits grow.

 

 

 

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