Website navigation is a crucial element of web design that affects both user experience and SEO. A well-designed website navigation system helps users find the information they need quickly and easily, while also guiding them to the most important pages on your site. On the other hand, a poorly-designed website navigation system can frustrate users, increase bounce rates, and lower your site’s ranking on search engines.
In this blog post, we will share 10 website navigation best practices that you can apply to your own site to improve its usability and visibility. These tips are based on research, examples, and industry standards that have proven to be effective for website navigation design.
1. Keep it simple
One of the most important website navigation best practices is to keep it simple. According to a study by Top Design Firms1, 38% of consumers look at a page’s navigational links and layout when looking at a site for the first time. Therefore, you want to make sure that your website navigation is clear, concise, and easy to understand.
Avoid using too many categories, subcategories, or links that can overwhelm or confuse your users. Instead, focus on the most essential pages and features that your users need or want to access. A good rule of thumb is to limit your main navigation menu to no more than seven items2. You can also use drop-down menus, mega menus, or secondary menus to organize your content into logical groups without cluttering your main menu.
2. Make it visible
Another website navigation best practice is to make it visible. Your website navigation should be located in a prominent place on your site, such as the header or the sidebar, where users can easily see and access it. You should also use consistent design elements, such as colors, fonts, icons, and styles, to make your website navigation stand out from the rest of your content.
One of the most common website navigation types is the horizontal menu that appears at the top of every page3. This type of menu is familiar to most users and provides a clear overview of your site’s structure. However, depending on your site’s layout and purpose, you may also use other types of menus, such as vertical menus, sticky menus, hamburger menus, or breadcrumb menus3. The key is to choose a menu type that suits your site’s design and functionality.
3. Create separation
A third website navigation best practice is to create separation between different types of links and buttons on your site. You want to avoid mixing up different types of actions or destinations that your users can take or go to on your site. For example, you should not use buttons for navigational links or links for calls to action4.
Instead, you should use different design elements, such as shapes, sizes, colors, or icons, to distinguish between different types of links and buttons on your site. For example, you can use rectangular buttons for calls to action, such as “Buy Now” or “Sign Up”, and use text links for navigational links, such as “About Us” or “Contact Us”. You can also use graphical elements5, such as images or icons, to enhance the visual appeal and informativeness of your website navigation.
4. Order links by priority
A fourth website navigation best practice is to order your links by priority. You want to make sure that the most important pages and features on your site are easily accessible and visible to your users. You should also consider how users typically browse and search for information on your site and arrange your links accordingly.
One way to order your links by priority is to use the F-pattern3. This pattern is based on the observation that users tend to scan web pages from left to right and from top to bottom. Therefore, you should place your most important links on the left side and the top part of your menu. You can also use submenus or dropdowns to group related links together and save space.
Another way to order your links by priority is to use analytics tools2, such as Google Analytics or Hotjar, to track how users interact with your site. You can use these tools to measure metrics such as page views, click-through rates, bounce rates, and conversions. Based on these data, you can identify which pages and features are most popular and valuable for your users and place them accordingly on your menu.
5. Optimize for mobile
A fifth website navigation best practice is to optimize your website navigation for mobile devices. According to Statista, more than half of the global web traffic in 2021 came from mobile devices. Therefore, you want to make sure that your website navigation is responsive and adaptable to different screen sizes and orientations.
One of the challenges of designing website navigation for mobile devices is the limited space available. You want to avoid creating a menu that is too large or too small for your users to see and tap on. You also want to avoid creating a menu that covers too much or too little of your content.
One of the solutions for designing website navigation for mobile devices is to use a hamburger menu3. A hamburger menu is a menu that consists of three horizontal lines that expand into a full menu when tapped on. This type of menu can help you save space and create a minimalist and elegant design for your site. However, you should also be aware of the drawbacks of using a hamburger menu, such as reduced discoverability and accessibility3.
Another solution for designing website navigation for mobile devices is to use a sticky menu3. A sticky menu is a menu that stays fixed at the top or bottom of the screen as users scroll through your site. This type of menu can help you increase visibility and accessibility of your website navigation and provide a consistent user experience across your site. However, you should also be careful not to make your sticky menu too large or intrusive that it interferes with your content.
6. Use descriptive labels
A sixth website navigation best practice is to use descriptive labels for your links and buttons. You want to make sure that your users can easily understand what each link or button does or where it leads to on your site. You should also use keywords and phrases that are relevant and meaningful for your users and your site’s topic.
Avoid using vague, generic, or ambiguous labels for your links and buttons, such as “Services”, “Products”, or “Learn More”. Instead, use specific, clear, and concise labels that describe the content or function of each link or button, such as “Web Design Services”, “Organic Skincare Products”, or “Read Our Blog”. You should also use consistent terminology and tone throughout your site to avoid confusion and inconsistency.
7. Include a search bar
A seventh website navigation best practice is to include a search bar on your site. A search bar is a feature that allows users to enter keywords or phrases and find relevant content or information on your site. A search bar can help users who have a specific query or goal in mind and do not want to browse through your menu or pages.
A search bar can also help users who cannot find what they are looking for on your site through your menu or pages. A search bar can provide an alternative way of accessing your content and information and prevent users from leaving your site unsatisfied.
You should place your search bar in a visible and accessible location on your site, such as the header or the sidebar. You should also make sure that your search bar is responsive and functional on both desktop and mobile devices. You should also optimize your search bar for usability and performance, such as providing autocomplete suggestions, filtering options, sorting options, and relevant results2.
8. Add a sitemap
An eighth website navigation best practice is to add a sitemap to your site. A sitemap is a page that lists all the pages and links on your site in a hierarchical structure. A sitemap can help users who want to get an overview of your site’s structure and content and find specific pages or sections on your site.
A sitemap can also help search engines crawl and index your site more efficiently and accurately. A sitemap can provide information about the priority, frequency, and last update of each page on your site, which can affect how search engines rank your site on their results pages.
You should create both an HTML sitemap and an XML sitemap for your site2. An HTML sitemap is a sitemap that is designed for human users and can be accessed through a link on your site, such as the footer or the sidebar. An XML sitemap is a sitemap that is designed for search engines and can be submitted through tools such as Google Search Console or Bing Webmaster Tools.
9. Test and improve
A ninth website navigation best practice is to test and improve your website navigation regularly. You want to make sure that your website navigation is working properly and effectively for both users and search engines. You should also keep track of any changes or trends in user behavior, preferences, expectations, and needs that may affect how they interact with your site.
You can use various methods and tools to test and improve your website navigation, such as:
- User testing: User testing is a method of testing how real users interact with your site and collecting feedback from them. You can use tools such as UserTesting or UsabilityHub to conduct user testing online.
- A/B testing: A/B testing is a method of testing two different versions of a web page or element to compare the performance of two different versions of a web page or element. You can use tools such as Google Optimize or Optimizely to conduct A/B testing online.
- Heatmaps: Heatmaps are visual representations of how users interact with your site, such as where they click, scroll, or move their mouse. You can use tools such as Hotjar to create heatmaps for your site and analyze user behavior and preferences.
- User feedback: User feedback is a method of collecting opinions and suggestions from your users through surveys, polls, ratings, reviews, or comments. You can use tools such as Hotjar or Omniconvert to collect user feedback on your site and understand user needs and expectations.
You should test and improve your website navigation on a regular basis, especially when you make significant changes to your site’s design, content, or features. You should also monitor your site’s analytics and performance metrics, such as traffic, bounce rate, conversion rate, and user satisfaction, to measure the impact of your website navigation on your site’s goals.
10. Follow website navigation best practices
A tenth website navigation best practice is to follow website navigation best practices. While there is no one-size-fits-all solution for website navigation design, there are some general principles and guidelines that have been proven to work for most websites and users. By following these best practices, you can ensure that your website navigation is user-friendly, SEO-friendly, and effective.
Some of the website navigation best practices that we have covered in this blog post are:
- Keep it simple
- Make it visible
- Create separation
- Order links by priority
- Optimize for mobile
- Use descriptive labels
- Include a search bar
- Add a sitemap
- Test and improve
By applying these tips to your own site, you can improve your website navigation and provide a better user experience and SEO for your site.
Website navigation is a vital aspect of web design that can make or break your site’s success. A good website navigation system can help users find what they are looking for on your site, increase their engagement and satisfaction, and boost your site’s ranking on search engines. A bad website navigation system can do the opposite.
Therefore, you should pay attention to your website navigation design and follow the best practices that we have shared in this blog post. By doing so, you can create a website navigation system that works for both your users and your site.
If you need help with designing or improving your website navigation, contact us today. We are a team of web design experts who can help you create a website that meets your goals and exceeds your expectations. We can also help you with other aspects of web design, such as web development, content creation, SEO, and more. Contact us today and let us know how we can help you with your web design project.