The sign posts of your website: 5 tips for creating a better website navigation

By Marty Friedel
Published December 3rd, 2015
You know that feeling you get when you arrive in a new city, step out of your hotel, look around, and try to find your bearings? New visitors to your website feel the exact same way.
The sign posts of your website: 5 tips for creating a better website navigation

Navigation is such a powerful feature of any website - your site’s navigation is key to increasing your site’s usability, and improving user engagement keeping them on your site for longer, and increasing the chance for your message to get across.

Here’s our five tips to ensure your site’s navigation is at its best:

1. Keep it simple (and logical)

Prepare clear and logical text for your menu links to make navigation easier - and find the right balance between keywords for your search engine optimisation efforts and readability for your users.

Each link should be succinct, and descriptive of the target of the link.

Try to avoid terms that could be ambiguous or misinterpreted - it can be useful to have a chat to a friend who is outside your industry to see if your suggestions for menu items make sense to an outsider.

2. Place navigation consistently on all pages

Users rely on consistently placed navigation to make it fast and efficient to browse through your site. With navigation in the same place and format on each page, users can quickly browse from page to page without having to re-assess each page to find their bearings again.

As your visitor browses pages, don’t forget to have the link state updated to keep visually showing the user where in the menu they are.

3. Avoid unnecessary menus within menus (and index page for dropdown pages)

Nested menus can be incredibly useful for some sites to provide quick access to a page within a section, without having to browse the whole section to get there.

However, avoid going beyond a single drop down level - if your drop down menu requires its own drop down menu then your navigation structure requires some re-thinking.

If you create a section on your site called "services", with a new page for each service you provide, a dropdown menu could be useful to your users. Remember though that some users may not see the dropdown based on the browser they are using - so make the "services" page still exist, and act as an index. Provide an introduction to your services, and clear links to each page within your services section.

4. Don’t forget the "home" link

More and more sites are starting to drop the "home" item from their site’s menu. But don’t - it’s invaluably useful.

If a user reaches a page (other than your home page) via a search engine, how can they get to your home page without having a "home" menu item?

A good developer will make your logo clickable to take the user back to your home page however not everyone knows to try clicking the logo. Remember the first tip - keep it simple and logical - if you want a link to take people to the home page, call it "home" and place it on your menu. Simple and logical.

5. Mobile visitors need good navigation too

This is more for your developer to consider, but just remember that there is an increasing trend in the amount of web traffic coming from smartphones and tablets.

Take the time to create a smart navigation experience for your mobile users, as well as your desktop users. Split menus should be combined for small screens, and even a hidden tap-activated menu could be used to save screen real estate.

When it comes to your site’s navigation, take some time to follow our tips, and test navigation on computers, smartphones and tablets to get a feel for how your visitors will experience your site.

Think of your navigation as a collection of sign posts - but a simple (and logical), consistently-placed and mobile user friendly navigation will help keep your users from getting lost deep in your site.

Marty Friedel
Marty Friedel

Marty has a background in Computer and Information Science, software development, web development, multimedia and web accessibility, and is Mity Digital’s resident nerd.

Outside of his programming work, Marty is a keen landscape photographer, and also teaches Les Mills group fitness classes.