To understand why navigation is so crucial to the success of a website, it is first necessary to define what it actually is.
The navigation is a roadmap or gateway which allows visitors to experience and orientate themselves with a website and access the various types of content that it contains.
Here are some of the most common types of website navigation we use at Orange Digital.
Probably the most popular and for good reason. It is simple, easy to set up and the no-frills approach means the visitor will have little difficulty in seeing what the website has to offer.
This type of navigation is most often used down the left hand side of a website, usually when there is a longer list of sections or items to push the visitor towards.
Used in conjunction with horizontal text menus, this allows the visitor to access the main sections of a website but sub-sections as well. So this type of navigation could be used by websites containing lots of content that needs to be accurately categorised.
Icons and graphics
Although most commonly seen in apps, icons and graphics are increasingly being used for navigation in websites as well, particularly those designed for mobile devices. Some user intuition is assumed here, as they will need to associate the icon or graphic with the section of the website it represents.
An effective visual aid that highlights where the visitor is within the website’s hierarchy, this navigation can greatly enhance the way users find their way around and reduce the number of clicks needed to return to a higher level page.
So, what really makes a good website navigation?
Most websites will include some of the types of navigation we just mentioned here, depending on the specific goals it has and the overall website design.
Whichever type you choose it is important you keep these four points in mind to improve user experience.
- Categorise the website content, then work backwards. Content should be analysed and bracketed into logical groups, which will then make up the navigation.
- KISS. Keep it simple, use easily recognisable words and phrases in the navigation and remove anything that is superfluous to getting the desired message across. For example use “News” rather than “In the news”.
- Consistency. Once a visitor starts to delve into a website, their experience will be made easier if the main navigation appears in the same place on every page. The harder the user has to look for something they need, the more likely it is they will lose their patience and leave. Not what the doctor ordered.
- Provide a (simple) choice. The aim of website navigation is to provide the visitor with a choice that can be made. The amount of choices in the primary navigation will vary from site to site, but six to nine options is usually considered best. More than that, and it could be worth re-organising the content structure of your website.
The common aim of all websites should be to engage their visitors with interesting, informative content, ultimately pushing them to a “Most Wanted Response,” usually making a purchase or becoming a lead.
It doesn’t take much imagination then, to understand why a poorly designed website navigation is going to put your website at a big disadvantage.
Visitors will not remain on a website and interact with it if they can’t find what they looking for. They will inevitably take their interest and potential business to the competition, perhaps never to return again.
A well thought-out and designed navigation can greatly enhance the user’s experience and enjoyment. Providing simple choices that the user will instantly relate to is in all party’s best interests as it will increase the likelihood that visitors will find what they are looking for and have their problem solved.
For the website, creating a solution for the visitor is the ultimate goal. Whether it’s a piece of free information, a sale, membership sign-up or new lead, all are valuable in their own right and will encourage traffic, recommendation and revenue generation. What every website wants…