One of the most important elements of website design is navigation. Navigation is just what it sounds like – how someone moves around on your website. If your site lacks effective navigation, it is not going to work for your business the way you need it to.
Website visitors typically want to know three things during their visit to your site: ‘Where am I?’, ‘Where have I been?’ and ‘Where else can I go?’ By visibly demonstrating these answers within your navigational structure, there is a higher chance visitors will remain on your site for longer, reinforcing the likelihood of a valuable sale.
An organized and transparent navigation system acts as a road map to direct visitors to various pages and information on your site.
Easy navigation allows visitors to explore your site and learn about your products or services, giving them confidence in your brand. If a visitor can navigate your website with ease, chances of him exiting your site immediately are less.
Here are some reasons why navigation is so important in your website design:
Good Navigation Works Well with SEO
Good navigation enables search engine bots to index your website efficiently when they crawl your web pages. Essentially it means if you don’t have easy navigational links, it’s affecting the usability of your site, and it may not be indexed by search engines either. It will also improve web usability. This means that if the website is not accessible by a link, it will not be found by the search engines.
Your site should be well-organized
Navigation helps organize your site. For example, by making good use of primary and secondary navigation, menus, and internal linking, you can create a user experience that is likely to keep people interested, and loyal, to your site. This comes down to helping your site visitors find what they need, with as little effort as possible. You want everyone who visits your site to have a good user experience and this can be accomplished with good navigation.
Don’t make your visitors work too hard
Simply put, visitors need to easily find what they are looking for. Visitors should be able to flow from one page to another without frustration. They shouldn’t have to think about where to go next, it should just flow.
A bad navigation system (including using cute names instead of more common ones) can mean multiple clicks (and guesses) to get to the desired information. If you force your visitors to put in too much effort when it comes to moving through your site and finding what they want, they will lose interest – and you will lose them.
Good navigation can speed up the viewer’s search because it’s intuitive and simple to understand.
People can enter your site from a number of different pages
Some people make the mistake of designing their website entirely around the home page. However, it is important to remember that many of your site’s pages may be ranked simultaneously by search engines, which means that people will be able to access your site from pages other than your home page. Without good navigation throughout the site, visitors could get stuck on a page and not be able to move on to explore more of your site.
Types of website navigation
When most people think of website navigation, they picture the website navigation menu that appears in the headers of most websites.
However, other types of website navigation exist.
- Sidebars are a common addition to many websites. They’re positioned to the left or right of the primary content. Some websites even have dual sidebars.
- Then you have footers, which often contain links to the site’s main pages as well as popular resources. So-called fat footers have been in vogue for a while now. They allow for more links, which means a better user experience.
- Many websites also use breadcrumbs. These are hierarchical navigation links that appear on a specific page. They tell you how that page is nested within other pages.
- The hamburger menu seen on mobile devices. This icon is made up of three slightly separated horizontal lines and has been likened to a hamburger because when you deconstruct the main elements, you’re left with two slices of bun and the meat in the middle.
Website navigation tips
- Link the Logo to the Home page
- Information should be no more than three clicks away
- The navigation page should be accessible from all pages and be consistent
- Use common words that people understand, not cutesy words that they have to interpret
- Always provide a link to the Home page on every page
- Keep it simple and intuitive
- Use horizontal navigation across the top or vertical navigation down the left side. Putting them in standard places makes your site easier to use.
- Put your most important items at the beginning of the navigation and the least important items in the middle. “Contact” should be the last item on the list, putting it at the far right
You put a lot of time and money into creating content for your site, perhaps even hiring someone to write it. Don’t stop there. If your website is not effectively designed with navigation in mind, your visitors won’t be able to find your content. If they can’t find it, they can’t read it . . . so what good is that content?