Why Navigation is an Important Aspect of your Website
A well-designed website has many factors ranging from design to copy to accessibility. When it comes to accessibility, one of the key things to remember is navigation. How well can a reader view your site? Are the navigational links easy to find, and as the word itself would suggest, navigate?
Types of navigation.
There are a few different types of navigation options you can have on your website. The most common ones are menus. These menus can be seen going on top of the page (usually underneath the header) or as a sidebar. Both of these menus can contain dropdowns, giving you additional category options. There are also footers, which contain links to the website’s main pages, as well as, privacy policies, contact information, and the like. Breadcrumbs are also popular sources of navigation as they can link you with relevant pages. Breadcrumbs are especially useful for retail type sites. And of course, with the immense popularity of searching the web on smartphones, hamburger menus are now the norm. You may recognize these menus as three horizontal lines on a mobile site’s webpage, this is basically just a menu that easier to visual on a smaller screen.
Organization is key.
Your navigational tool needs to be conveniently located for visitors. You want it in a place that is easy to find and easy to refer back to. If something is too hard for a user to find, they may just give up on your site entirely and that is the last thing you want. Don’t go too crazy with how much you put in your home page navigation, too much can be overwhelming. Good navigation can improve SEO and can help get you placed higher on search engines.
Designing your navigation bar.
Keep the navbar coordinated, in a smooth flow and easy to read font and color. However, it is important that every page contains not only your navigation bar, but also a logo, even if it is the header itself, and make sure it links back to the homepage. If you have a large site, group relevant sections together in a drop-down menu, and sub drop-down menus. For example, Women’s Fashion > Bottoms > Denim. Just make sure those categories are clear and concise.
Let the analytics speak for themselves.
Once you put your site together, don’t let that be the end-all-say-all. Keep track of your analytics and notice the pages that get more attention than others. If you find one page on your navigation bar gets little to no traction, while a page not listed in plain sight gets more, it may be a good idea to switch the two. You can also reconsider renaming one of the links to a keyword that is more desirable to visitors.
And finally, test!
This one is simple. Test each link to see how long it takes you to reach your destination. If you are looking for a specific product or piece of information on a site, do a test to see how many clicks it takes you to get there. If it is more than three, you may want to find a faster way for the visitor to get there. Also, test your links for any possible errors. Nobody likes a broken link! Be sure to test ALL your links before going public, from every angle in which someone can access them.
In the end…
If your content is the heart of your website, then your navigation is the brain. You can’t make the heart work without the brain’s help and likewise with the navigation and your content. So, spend a little more time working on the navigation link and help your visitors enjoy your site even more.