In order to make your website easy to use and to navigate, it is essential that your web developer takes account of practical navigation strategies. Pick the wrong designer who fails to do this and your website viewers will find themselves confused and frustrated, often leaving the site and going elsewhere. Unless they are determined to find what they want, you will end up with another one added to your bounce-rate statistic and that is not a pleasant place to be!
But enough about what can go wrong – what about what should go right? In order to make your website navigation practical and incredibly user-friendly, your website developer needs to pay attention to the following:
• Don’t be too unpredictable – whilst it is great to be creative and buzzing with new ideas, this must not be at the expense of your navigation. Be unique by all means but not when it comes to telling viewers how to get from A to B. Confuse them at your own risk and watch as they drop off the page.
• KISS (or KIS) – in other words, Keep It Simple which sort of goes hand-in-hand with being unsurprising. And don’t make the error of having a very predictable design with an array of menus and even sub-menus that are chaotic and muddled. This is something that all web-site viewers back away from.
• Be minimal but not too much so – have you ever landed on a website that is so minimalistic that you can’t find out where to go next? There appears to be no menu and no way of piloting your way around the site. If you have then you probably did what most do and this to click off within a few seconds; once clear and straightforward navigation disappears then your site is a goner.
• Maintain consistency – this applies to both the theme and page structure. Visitors need to work out your site within a matter of seconds and they will have made a foregone conclusion that all pages will be similar; if your web designer has applied a varied navigation system per page then it will make no logical sense and if the viewer does stick with it, they will have to work it out unnecessarily each time.
• Set a clear hierarchical structure – your navigation menu should be clear in this regard with categories and sub-categories which are clickable, keeping everything listed in a logical order. This way your user can see what is on the site without having to spend time flicking through every page to find what they are looking for. This is very important if your site displays a broad range of services and products, such as an e-commerce store.
• Make it manageable – if your navigation is carried out correctly, practically and clearly then users of your website should be able to see where they have been, where they can go to and where they are now. Think of it a little like leaving a trail so that viewers can track their position. This ensures that your site navigation is not only manageable but that they are in full control, which is something that users appreciate. Your website designer should not make the mistake of assuming that all visitors will enter via the Home page; some may come via any range of inner pages, particularly if they have clicked on a link found elsewhere, on another site or even via the Search Engine Results Page.
• Link your Home page to your logo – web designers will usually make a point of linking your Home page to the site’s logo, which should be showing up on each page in exactly the same position. This is because many users will subconsciously click back to the Home page if they need to repeat the search process. It should also be remembered that some users may end up on your site having used a search engine such as Google and may end up on any page within your website and not always the Home page. Good navigation should allow them to click on your Home page and be able to explore the rest of your site from that point.
• A sitemap is a must – not all websites have this but a good web developer will know that a sitemap is fundamental to your site being easy to navigate. If someone is viewing your site and gets lost, then providing them with the ability to click on a sitemap which holds a link to all pages is a great bonus. It should show each of the pages on your website clearly and in a hierarchical way, providing an easy-to-read overview. Keep it short and succinct though and don’t try and include details of every single topic on the site.
By taking account of each of these points, your website designer will be able to provide you with a site that is easy to use and navigate, enabling visitors to get to where they want to go with no fuss or friction.
Getting it right in the early stages of the design and appreciating the importance of good layout and structure will prevent your website navigation becoming an intricate web of mazes, labyrinths and tangled warrens.
With great website navigation comes great benefits. A well thought out and practical website navigation can entice your website visitor to click around more – And if what they are looking for is found with great ease then your website will tick a big box with Google titled user experience.
Google can’t tell exactly how happy someone is with your website, but using a few key metrics such as pages visited for example – You can find the pages visited metrics in Google Analytics – then the higher the number of pages visited is then Google can assume that the visitor is enjoying the time spent on your website and visiting more pages for a positive reason.
Here’s a great video that explains time on site:
By choosing a web designer that thinks practically with regard to navigation strategies you will find your site works as it should, minimising your bounce-rates and keeping visitors where they should be – firmly glued to your site and not that of your competitor!
Creativity may make your site stand out from the rest and that can only be a good thing. However, by keeping the focus on sensible and user-friendly site navigation, a good web developer will be providing you with a website that not only attracts and intrigues viewers, leaving them wanting to know more, but will also provide them with such a great browsing experience that they will keep coming back, adding your site name to their list of frequently visited and preferred online locations.