Have you ever been five pages deep into a website and then tried to suddenly do something else? Maybe you wanted to pay a bill, update your profile, check out another section, or just get back to the section you started from? On good sites, navigation is easy and intuitive and you can easily find where you’re going. On bad sites? Forget it. You’ll maybe click around for a few minutes, before you get frustrated and close that browser tab. Lost users equal lost engagement and revenue for your site. That’s why it’s so important to get site navigation right. Let’s take a look at 5 ways to develop great website navigation.
Menus should be easy to read and understandable at a glance. Also, make sure your menu headings are accurate. Users are likely to abandon your site if they can’t understand your menus or can’t find what they’re after because of confusing menus.
Websites with loads of content can benefit from breadcrumbs, which is a visual navigation aid that shows a user the path they took to the page they’re currently on. In their simplest form, breadcrumbs might look like this:
Homepage > Section > Sub-section > Page You’re On Now
With breadcrumbs, users have a quick way to know where they are and where they’ve been.
Over the years, users have come to expect certain standards from website navigation. Hamburger menus on the left and using the left-most section of the site for other navigation have become so routine that users can get confused if they’re not there. Using simple and easy to find menus doesn’t mean your site has to be cookie-cutter and lack unique elements. Instead, rely on well-chosen graphics and colors to give your site its identity.
According to Statcounter.com, 22.54 percent of web users in the United States are still using screens with 360x640 resolution. If you’re designing your website with a gorgeous 4K monitor it can be easy to disregard how your menus appear on low-res screens.
What can you do? Make sure your menus can be found by giving them enough visual weight that they stand out among other competing \. You don’t need to overwhelm your viewer, but consider what other elements will appear alongside your menus and strike a balance.
Another often overlooked area is contrast. Colors need contrast to be seen. Failure to use enough contrast can make your website hard to use for those of us with regular vision and absolutely impossible to use for the visually impaired. WebAIM has a free online color contrast checker you can use to make sure your color scheme has enough contrast to be seen.
Consider using different navigation schemes for your mobile users vs. your desktop users. Desktop screens have much more horizontal space available for content, so you can offer your users more ways to discover your web pages. Alternatively, when users are using the mobile version of your website, you’ll want to optimize your navigation by shortening links and menu headers and listing the most important or popular pages first.
There’s a lot to think about when designing your website, but getting the basics of navigation right should be one of your first goals By focusing on simple and easy to use navigation, you’ll ensure your users can find what they’re looking for.