Navigation plays an extremely important role on your website. It allows people to easily browse through your website to quickly access the information they need. User experience design involves the process of designing navigation menus and structures that don’t disrupt the flow or interactivity of the website. Usability is an important factor that will determine the success of your website.
Ask yourself- is navigating my site cohesive, yet stimulating, easy to understand, and keeps the user’s attention?
We will be looking into three key points which are the content, placement of navigation, and the clarity of your navigation in order to improve navigation experience of your website. Finally, we also will be looking into the common mistakes most people make when designing navigation menus.
Improving Navigation Experience
Having an idea of what pages or content you will have on your website will help you design your navigation structure effectively. Your content should shape the navigation structure, not be confined by it. If you lack content, even well designed navigation can’t make your visitors stay on your webpage. After content is established, build navigation that guides the flow of user experience.
Navigation elements include:
- Menu – Most important aspect of your website as it is the first area people look to find information that they are looking for.
- Breadcrumbs – Improves the flow of page navigation and page structure.
- Filters – Used to manage information-heavy websites.
- Links – Helps users make connections between related content.
Strategic placement of navigation elements are used on sites with strong usability to provide users with organisational and visual cues to aid navigation. The placement of said elements impacts how your visitors interact and respond to your website. The best places to put your navigation menu would be across the top horizontally or vertically down the left side of your page.
- Horizontal Menu – Most websites use a horizontal menu, since most people read text across the page, this makes the menu easy to scan. It has become something that users understand and expect.
- Vertical Menu – Vertical navigation can be useful for linear content or long vertical pages. Parallax websites often use vertical navigation to help users understand where they are on the page.
Having clear and concise writing helps people navigate through a page. This is the same for navigational structure on your site. An example of a well-designed navigation structure would include an intuitive menu, clearly labelled links, and “you are here” indicators. When the right convention is not available, a simple and direct explanation should be used. Remember to never sacrifice clarity for creativity.
When visitors land on your site, they are looking for something. They may end up on a page that does not contain what they are looking for and as a result, your website should offer the appropriate guidance. A great site will help users know that they are on the right path and help users find what they are looking for as quickly as possible. People won’t use your website if they can’t their way around it.
People can only process a small amount of information at a time. For large and complex websites, it is helpful to simplify the amount of information on the page and include them in your navigation structure. For example, a news website might split their navigation structure into separate categories.
Navigation menus are not limited to just text. You can be creative by including different elements (such as images or icons), using subcategories, different colours for titles and separators; the list is endless.
Great user experiences are built on great content with a clear way to experience and interact with it. Navigation can be as important as the content itself because it can influence whether the experience happens at all.
Common Mistakes in Navigation Design
Visitors to your site expect to find a horizontal navigation menu at the top of your page. If they can’t easily find the menu, they most likely will give up which would result in a higher bounce rate for your site.
Using Generic Labels
You should be clear and descriptive in naming links within your navigational menu. This will help visitors easily find information that they are looking for as well as helping with search engine optimisation.
Too Many Items in the Menu
Putting too many links in the menu will confuse your visitors. Grouping menu items into categories will definitely help with navigation and usability.
Ordering of Items
Research shows that attention and retention are highest for things that appear at the beginning and the end. So for your navigation menu, arrange it so that the most important items at the beginning and the least important items in the middle.
How to Break all the Rules
How to Get it Right
Improving navigation on your website is important as it will determine the success of your site. By following the suggestions outlined in this article you can dramatically improve the usability and user experience of your website.
Fireworks web designers are qualified and experienced in designing and building websites that result in excellent user-experience. We understand what’s important when it comes to website navigation design.
To chat to a Fireworks developer call 1300 660 160 today!