After spending months developing your website and creating content for each page, the next step is to design your navigation in a way that makes sense for your visitors. According to a report from Komarketing, 37% of users say that poor navigation and design cause them to leave websites. If your website doesn’t flow in the way users might expect, the chances are that they won’t stick around.
Research shows that users look at the top left corner of your site first. A Nielsen Norman Group study found website viewers spend 80% of their time looking at the left half of pages.
With that in mind, we’ve put together some website navigation strategies to ensure your most important content is visible and accessible…
Build a sitemap first
During the early stages of web development, it makes sense to build a sitemap that helps you visualise your website and how users will get from A to B. Think about the features your new website will include and the content hierarchy.
Do you want a blog, an about us page, and an FAQ section? Which of these is most important and should be most visible from your top navigation bar, and what can be added as a drop-down or to the footer of your site?
Create a sitemap on paper to list all of your user interfaces and sub-categories – you’ll then be able to rank and prioritise content and build a basic framework for your site.
The same is true when developing an app – the more you think about the user interface of your website, the better. If you’re not into handwritten notes, consider an online flowchart maker instead.
Don’t reinvent the wheel
Although it can be tempting to do something different with your website navigation to stand out from the crowd, it pays to stick to conventions. Logos typically appear in the top left-hand corner of a website and serve as a link back to the homepage.
Navigation bars tend to be at the top of the page rather than in the sidebar or at the bottom, and most brands categorise content into different sections and drop-down menus so as not to overwhelm new visitors.
It’s essential to emphasise clarity when designing your navigation bar. Follow the three-click rule of user-interface design: if users can’t find what they’re looking for within three clicks, you’ve done something wrong.
Map out your content in a way that feels natural and focused on helping customers find the information they need, whether it’s your product page, a link to donate to your cause or support documents related to your products or services.
Consider a sticky menu
Another common user interface design standard is sticky navigation – having your website ‘fixed’ or ‘floating’ at the top of the page when users scroll means they can find information as and when they need it. This is particularly useful for websites with long-scrolling content, so users don’t have to spend an age scrolling back to the top.
You may also want to add a separate ‘back to top’ button that appears and floats as users scroll through your content, especially on blog posts, white papers, and other long-form content. Both of these strategies put the user first and make your website easier and more enjoyable to browse and consume.
When designing your sticky menu, avoid overloading it – stick to 5-10 categories so users can easily process important information and head to their desired page faster. Dropdown menus can be used to break down your sections into easily digestible pieces.
You may even want to emphasise one or two items on your navigation bar in a different colour or with a button; SaaS brands might add a ‘Download Now’ button that attracts attention, for instance.
Allow users to search your website
Although well-designed navigation should mean users can find what they’re looking for within one or two clicks, offering a search function on your website is also essential.
Google handles 99,000 search queries every second, and as consumers increasingly look to access content faster and without distraction, your website should be as easy to use as the search giant.
Keep the search bar close to your navigation menu and ensure it’s fixed in place as users scroll through your website’s content. You might use a content management system like WordPress that has a custom search engine built-in, or you could use a Google plugin.
Make it easy to jump from page to page
Finally, your website must be easy to navigate from page to page. To start, make it clear which page of your website they’re on: changing the colour of your navigation bar when users are visiting a particular page helps ground them, whilst breadcrumbs can also be used to display a user’s location on your website and the categories they’ve jumped through to get there.
Breadcrumbs typically appear at the top of pages, search engine results pages, and blog posts and allow users to jump to different categories, website sections, and more.
If you publish lengthy content on your blog, you might also want to consider adding a status bar or reading progress bar to indicate how far through a piece of content they are. Bars like this can show users how much of the article they’ve read and encourages them to continue reading. It improves the overall user experience and can keep users on your site for longer. On long-form content, it is also worth adding anchor links and navigation tools to break up text and improve readability and accessibility.
If you’re looking for support building a new website or adapting an existing site, reach out to the web development experts at Zudu today for a free consultation. Click to find out more.
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