Your website navigation is one of the key parts of your website that your web visitor engages with.
It impacts things like how many pages they visit on your website, if they stick around on your website or leave right away, and even if they decide to convert to the next step, like sign up for your email list or Discovery call.
Poor navigation can negatively impact the experience that they have on your website. We know that this can negatively impact your overall business.
Ultimately, it’s best to keep your navigation simple and to think about the overall navigation structure of your website.
Here are a few tips for creating a great user experience through your navigation:
1. Being Too Clever
One of the biggest mistakes that I see is using clever words in the navigation menu rather than using terms that your clients would use to describe those pages. This can also negatively impact your website when it comes to search engines.
For example, if you use a “Services” page and “How We Work”, people may become confused as to which one to click on.
Action Item: Use terms that you’re website visitors are using, and that they are used to seeing like “About Me” or “Services” or “Shop”.
2. Navigation Overload
Another mistake I see is overloading the main navigation with what seems like every page on the website.
It’s overwhelming for people and makes it hard to find what they are looking for.
Too many options lead to indecision, so stick to no more than seven links in the main navigation. Five links are even better.
Action Item: Limit your main navigation bar to no more than seven links.
3. Way Too Many Drop-Downs
When it comes to using dropdowns in your main navigation, remember that simple is always better.
You want to limit the number of drop-down menus (they are hard to use on touch screen devices) but if you do use them, make sure there’s some sort of visual cue so people know there are more options.
Action Item: Make sure there’s a visual cue for your dropdowns in your main menu.
4. No Search Bar
Use a search bar to allow people to search very specifically for what they’re looking for. They may be searching for something that you didn’t think to include on your homepage or in your navigation.
If they’re looking for something specific, give it to them.
I love Termageddon but their website can be a challenge to navigate without a search feature. There’s a page on their website that outlines what states have privacy laws that are being considered.
I had to bookmark it because they don’t have a search and it’s not an easy page to find.
Action Item: Include a search bar in your website’s header.
5. Morphing Navigation Bars or Menus
Your primary navigation items shouldn’t change. No matter what page you’re on, it should contain the same links in the same order.
This isn’t just a visitor experience thing, it’s also a key part of making sure your website is accessible for people who are using screen readers.
When things move around it’s confusing and makes it hard to understand where they are on your website. Keeping consistent navigation is a great way to keep your site user-friendly.
Action Item: Use a consistent header that includes your navigation that doesn’t change.
6. Lack of a Next Step
Use links within your pages to help people find the next related page. This is a great thing to include in a blog post.
You don’t want people to have to rely on the navigation which should remain simple.
Instead, help guide people through your website within the pages themselves. At the end of a blog post, you may have some related posts (this is where content categories make an impact). Or you may have some resources for a reader to check out.
This will also help you with the search engines by adding internal links to your website.
Action Item: Add related pages or related blog posts widget to resource pages.
7. Missing Sitemap
Use a sitemap at the bottom of your page to help visitors find exactly what they’re looking for.
Visitors are used to sitemaps from larger websites. They’ll go to your footer as part of a trained pattern.
This is where you’d want to include your navigation structure. This form of navigation can help you provide a better user experience and help people find what they need without poking around or having to use the search if they aren’t sure what to search for.
Action Item: Add a sitemap to the bottom of your website in the footer with your navigation links.
8. The Dreaded Broken Link
Make sure that you don’t have broken links on your website. not only does this not respect your visitor, but it makes you look like you don’t know what you’re doing.
Links break over time. It’s just something that happens as your website grows and changes.
Make sure your auditing your website about once a month. Checking for broken links should be one of the first things that you do.
Action Item: Routinely check for broken links using a tool like https://www.brokenlinkcheck.com/.
9. Be Kind, Check Mobile
Check your navigation on your mobile phone.
We typically see navigation as a hamburger menu (three horizontal lines on top of each other) on a mobile device, so make sure that it’s viewable and the links work.
This is a part of responsive design and something that I’ve seen negatively affect the navigation experience. You want to make sure that people can see the hamburger icon (use a contrasting color from the background).
For example, sticky menus are great on desktop, but sometimes take up too much of the screen on mobile. Using a header navigation bar is fantastic, but not if it covers up the primary content people are trying to read.
Action Item: Check your navigation from a mobile phone (not a simulator on your computer).