Quick and easy access to the content they're after is more important for your website users than a... visually-stunning design. Simple, straightforward navigation is what they expect to find. But what makes a website easy to navigate?
What are some good practices to follow to make your website easier to navigate?
Here's a top 11:
1. Put Your Navigation Right Where Users Expect to Find It
Don't compromise good user experience for the sake of "wowing" visitors with your innovative navigation system.
Do users expect to see a navigation bar at the top of the page? Or a navigation menu in the top right corner? Give them that.
This way, they get faster access to the information on your website that they're interested in.
Tip! Do you feel particularly creative and you want to add multimedia content to your navigation? Make it obvious to your site visitors that those are clickable elements.
2. Tailor the Navigation Bar To Your Own Audience and Business
A navigation bar optimized to meet the needs of a particular audience is what makes a website easy to navigate.
So, ask yourself this:
What do visitors do on your website? What are they're looking for?
More information on some of the services that you provide? Or maybe they want to have a look at the projects in your portfolio and at your previous clients' testimonials?
Are they on your website for your blog posts?
Once you're done with this empathy exercise and you have all the data, you'll know how many links are "too many" or "too few" for your navigation menu.
3. Make Your Sidebars Stand Out from the Rest of the Page
"How do I organize my website navigation?"
You make sure your sidebars don't blend in with the content on the page.
And there are many simple and effective ways that you can set it apart from the body copy. Here are just 2 of them:
- use a different background color for your sidebars
- use white space strategically to make it stand out from the other elements on the page
4. Make It Legible and Easy to Read on Any Screen
Before you rush in to answer that, make sure you test it for legibility on smaller screen devices, as well.
Here 2 of the best practices to follow for legible navigation in all usage contexts:
- use a font that's at least 12 pixels
- avoid narrow scripts and fonts
- break out your navigation into clear categories with up to 7 items
- use main menu, second, and third-level dropdown menu, as well, to organize your navigation if your website holds a lot of pages
5. What Makes a Website Easy to Navigate? A Fairly Straightforward Navigation Menu
Keep your navigation titles clear, accurate, and easily recognizable: stay away from witty or riddle-like titles.
Why would you want to change already familiar title phrases like "About Us" or "Contact Us" and risk to confuse the user? To make him/her lose valuable time trying to figure out "what the poet meant by..."?
Just keep it simple and predictable.
6. Make Your Hypertext Stand Out from the Body Copy
"How do I make my website easier to navigate?"
You make sure that users can tell hyperlinks from the rest of the page content.
- make them bold
- use another color
- underline them
Just make sure your navigation links are 100% usable.
Make it obvious to the users that that is a hypertext and they can click on it.
7. Make Sure Your Navigation Is Fully Responsive
This is, by far, one of the website navigation best practices.
And the adjustments to consider for your mobile navigation menu range from:
- making the links large enough for mobile phone users to tap on with no effort
- to tightening the menu so that it fits smaller screen sizes
- to using a hamburger menu on mobile devices
8. Mind the Footer
Too often overlooked, the footer navigation has a big impact on the user experience (positive or negative, depending on whether you "forget" about it or not).
Just put yourself into the shoes of a user who's just landed on your website:
You've scrolled all the way to the bottom of the homepage and you now want to go to a specific service page or product page. Wouldn't it be great if you could access it via a hyperlink placed right there, in the footer? That, instead of going back to the header menu...
"But what should I put in my footer?" you ask yourself.
You can either:
- mirror the links included in your header navigation menu
- or put links to other key pages on your website: contact page, target blog posts, email newsletter sign up, etc.
9. Include Internal Search Functionality
What makes a website easy to navigate? Effective on-site search functionality...
Especially if you have an eCommerce website, where users look for specific products/services.
Once you've implemented it, follow these tips for making your search bar stand out:
- use an icon of a magnifying glass
- insert a "Search Here" text inside the search box
- use a different color to make it pop out
And don't stop there:
Merely adding internal search functionality is just the first step. Make sure that the entire search experience meets the user's expectations.
And in 2020 users expect much more than just the basic product filters like color, size, and style.
They want to narrow down their selection to products that are on sale or to products that have been recently added to the website or...
10. Use Text Links Instead of Buttons for Your CTAs
Here's why you don't want to use buttons in your header navigation:
- it's bad for your SEO: search rankings can't read buttons (but they can read text)
- they make your navigation look clunky
- you can't make a specific link stand out from the rest
- buttons load slower, affecting the overall page loading speed
In short, use text for your menu items for both usability and SEO. It's one of the website navigation best practices in 2020.
11. Create a Sitemap for Your Website's Visitors
Provide them with a map before you expect them to explore your website.
This way, you:
- make your website more usable for its visitors
- help search engines crawl in and index your web pages
With these best practices on what makes a website easy to navigate at hand... what next?
How do you implement them on your own website?
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