Good navigation makes the whole process easy and smooth. Bad navigation is frustrating and can lead to a loss of sales.
A navigation menu is a set of directions
Think of the navigation on your website as a map or set of directions. The clearer a set of directions are, the easier it is to reach your destination. The same applies for the navigation on a website: if it’s clear and makes sense then people will know exactly where they need to go to get exactly what they want.
According to some research done by Forrester Research, 50% of potential sales are lost because users can’t find the right information. That means almost half of the people that visit your website could potentially leave without doing what they came to do: buy your product or services. That’s a lot of people not buying from your company and it can all be avoided through the use of good navigation.
13 Key principles of good website navigation
Navigation should be easy to use and make sense. The last thing you want is for people to stop and figure out where it is they want to go – this is too much like hard work, and they’ll likely backtrack off your website.
Visitors should look at the navigation menu and think “ah, that’s what I wanted”. They should be able to find the information they need all by themselves.
People like it when things work how they expect them to. With navigation, sticking with conventions and trends is key. Web users visit multiple web sites each day and if you’re the only one with different navigation that feels wrong to them, you can bet they won’t be coming back any time soon.
3. Structured: main and sub navigation
Structure is essential to making your website understandable and easy-to-use. It would be a very bad idea to list all of your pages separately in your navigation – the list would get far too unwieldly and overwhelming for people to find what they need.
For this reason, it’s logical to organise things under main headings and sub headings. A good example of a main heading would be “Services” with sub headings denoting the different services on offer. To just list these services in the main navigation, unless you had only one or two services, would lead to clutter.
It should be very obvious on your website just where your navigation menu is. There’s nothing worse than being stuck on a homepage, searching high and low for a navigation menu and having to head back to Google to look for a website that makes sense.
We’ve talked a lot about why accessibility is good for website design and business in general and navigation is no different. Navigation should work the same across all browsers, devices, without a mouse, and for people that have difficulty reading text.
Testing is the only way to guarantee navigation that works. Ask people to test your navigation menu. This can be friends and family but ideally it should be people from your target audience.
Navigation is one of the foundations of a website. It can make or break a website, either encouraging people to carry on or put people off and send them elsewhere. Don’t be afraid to change your navigation – just remember to test it!