Website Navigation Best Practices
Many companies believe that simply getting users to visit their website is the most important goal. In actuality, a more important (and sometimes more difficult) goal to achieve is getting users to stay on the website. There are many reasons a user may prematurely leave a site, but one of the easiest to avoid is poor navigation. If a user can’t find the information they need, they will exit the site and continue their search elsewhere. Poor website navigation can impact traffic and conversions, so it’s important that your sitemap follows certain guidelines.
When users visit a website, there are certain elements they normally expect—general information about your business, how to get in touch, history of the business, etc. Navigating a website should be uncomplicated, allowing users to easily find the information they were looking for without taking too much time or requiring them to jump through numerous hoops. Here are a few best practices to follow to ensure your site will be easy to navigate.
Keep the Sitemap Simple
While you want your website to be unique, it’s recommended that the sitemap not be too creative. Most users visit numerous sites a day and are familiar with how a sitemap should work, so try to keep it standard so they don’t spend unnecessary time attempting to navigate your site.
Use Familiar Labels
Refrain from using vague, nondescriptive page labels to make navigating your website a breeze. Your users surf dozens of websites each day, forming expectations and habits about how to navigate menus. Use this to your advantage by utilizing familiar navigation labels like Contact Us, About Us, What We Do, etc. The more straightforward the label, the easier it will be for users to identify what a page will be about before they even visit it.
Keep Navigation Consistent
Primary and secondary navigation menus, as well as the footer, should be consistent across your website. Keeping navigation links in the primary menu, secondary menu, and footer will keep your user from getting lost on a search for information. This allows users to learn the navigation of your website and find the pages they are looking for with ease.
Avoid a Cluttered Navigation Menu
Utilize primary and secondary menus in your navigation to avoid overwhelming your users. Try not to include more than eight primary navigation labels so users don’t get lost in a multitude of page options. Not every piece of information needs its own page, so make sure relevant content is grouped together to cut down on the number of pages on your website.
Use the Law of Proximity
The Law of Proximity recommends similar labels and elements be grouped together. Grouping relevant labels helps users better understand the connection between them. This prevents cognitive overload and provides a helpful flow of relevant content.
Utilize the Footer
Having navigation links in the footer is convenient for users so they don’t have to scroll up to the main navigation bar to click on the next page they would like to visit. So-called “fat footers” are a popular type of footer that allows more space to be used for navigation links and resources. They’re large enough to contain primary page links as well as sub-page links. You can also include other resources your users might find helpful in the footer, like a contact form, sitemap, or social media links.
Keep Your Business Goals in Mind
Keep user choices concise and specifically designed to funnel your visitors to the most important pages for conversions. Directing users to fundamental pages can have a significant impact on your website goals. Create a balance between pages that might interest your visitor in terms of curiosity, but add links that also direct them through the funnel.
Even if a website’s content, design, product, or service is new to a user, they still expect standard navigation practices such as simple labels and easily defined menus. By following these website navigation best practices and ensuring the content on your website is accessible and conveniently organized, you could see an increase in search engine rankings, website traffic, and conversions.