Posted September 20 by Roman Kalina
Sep 20 by Roman Kalina

Crucial but neglected: 4 tips for better navigation

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Designing a website is a complex process, which combines a lot of small elements and experiences together. Each element has its importance and most of them irreplaceable. One of them is navigation. This “small bar” at the top of the page is extremely crucial. On one hand, it guides visitors thought the most important part of your site and it serves as a lead for them, on the other hand, it also has a massive impact on SEO. If site is easy to use, it will appear in the top places in search engine listings.

Navigation vs. Search
Navigation is a list of categories or features of the website, which can be represented either by a text link to a sub-page or icons. The navigation menu is often visually distinguished from the rest of the website’s design, and it basically helps visitors to find the information they want on the website.

Quick Search Animation by Vivek M

 

Some may argue that Search may help users to find what they want more efficiently. However, Gerry McGovern did research, which showed that 70% of the web users rely on navigation and on a 30% use search. There is a reason why people trust navigations more than a search because they contain the words that people are looking for, so it’s easier to just click on the text in navigation than use search.

“Navigation is more important than search,” Gerry McGovern.

It is crucial for the site to have thorough navigation. Here are some do’s and don’ts when it comes to designing website navigation.

Use the right labels
Simplified navigation labels are hurting your website. Labels like Products, Photos, Videos are too generic and they do not communicate with first-time users. Visitors usually search for information and answers. Instead of using labels like Team or About, be more descriptive and use Meet our Team or How it Works.

As mentioned above, navigation helps to guide your users, but it also helps your website’s SEO. Using descriptive labels in navigation will help your rank in search results. Descriptive labels are also helping your visitors to go through your website more intuitively.

Navigation Exploration by Antoine Plu

 

Less is more
Make the journey through your website the easiest possible. Firstly, limit the number of items in navigation to a maximum of seven. Having fewer links on your homepage is good for the site’s SEO, and the new users won’t get lost.

Secondly, limit the number of levels within navigation. The fewer clicks users have to make in order to reach what they want, the better. According to Nielsen Norman Group: “the deeper a hierarchy becomes, the more likely visitors are to become disoriented.” If your website is too complicated, try to make it as simple as possible. You might even consider removing some redundant content.

Finally, get rid of drop-down menus. Drop-downs are hurting both SEO and also visitors to your website. Bots find them hard to crawl through and users that are going to click on the navigation item will suddenly have more options, so he will become more confused. The same applies to the hamburger menu. On one hand, the hamburger menu solves a spatial problem of the overall design, but on the other hand, it requires the user to make one more click before he will see the navigation.

Cocoskies website by Philippa Vernals

 

Make it visible
You want your user to instantly find the navigation on your website. The first rule, have only one navigation and put it in a familiar location, i.e. you can go crazy with the site’s design, but keep the navigation where users can find it.

The navigation bar also has to look interactive. Users have to know that texts are clickable, it has to be distinguished from the rest of the site’s design. It has to be surrounded by enough of the whitespace to stick out even more. Another important element of navigation is the font. The text has to be big enough to read, but not too big so the user will be distracted from important messages in the hero area of the website. Text color should be in contrast with the color of the background. You can also use colored icons because according to the NN group: “users are roughly 37% faster at finding items within a list on a web page when visual indicators vary both in color and icon compared to text alone.”

Last but not least, do not forget to include the logo in the navigation. The logo serves as a back button to get the user back to the homepage just by one click. It is beneficial because the user will not get lost on your website.

Create different navigation for mobile version
Responsive websites are changing depending on the device. The same applies to navigation. Menus have to change depending on the device, e.g. hover doesn’t work on the mobile, so if your desktop navigation uses hovering, it needs to be adjusted on mobile. NN group recommends optimizing the navigation for different devices. Do not try to create one navigation for all of them, take the extra effort and create separate navigations. “Different devices have different capabilities of interaction and different screen sizes,” NN group claims.

Try to avoid the hamburger menu, because hidden navigation significantly decreases user experience both on mobile and on desktop. According to Forge and Smith having a strong footer with navigation is crucial, because mobile users will reach the bottom of the page and then they want to make the decision. There are many alternatives to navigations on a mobile device. You can have scrollable navigation, floating navigation, etc. The designer also has to bear in mind that smartphones are getting bigger, so placing a menu into the thumb zone is one of the many options for better UX of your mobile navigation.

REI - Responsive by Eddie Lobanovskiy

 

Navigation is just a small piece in the puzzle of the whole website, but it is of great importance. Having thorough navigation really helps your website to be more visited more and it also lowering the bouncing rate, so your visitors won’t leave the website. While designing your website, you should pay more attention to it.

Roman Kalina
Roman Kalina is a product strategist and copywriter at PLATFORM.