Website navigation best practices – what you need to know

Improve your website design with these top tips

Web developer Gleb Smolich discusses website navigation and how important it is to your website. Whether you build the site yourself or employ someone, here's what you need to consider.

Make sure your website is designed to aid user navigation and is good for search engines

An accurate website navigation design (10 great examples of website navigation design) is the most important part and a top task for anyone building a website. If your visitors spend significant time searching for a certain page or content, then your navigation patterns do not working out properly.

Ease of website navigation and comfortable search are what your visitors and users should be able to experience. Avoiding on-page distractions, logic breaks and other issues that might be confusing your customers make the website specific. A user-friendly navigation makes a big difference and is just one of the must-haves.

Limiting the distractions on a website and keeping navigation organized and neat will simply help to generate more leads. Not to mention all the other benefits, including:

  • Improved customer experiences
  • Larger traffic and more conversions
  • Greater rank and search visibility
  • Optimization of a web presence

By using the website navigation best practices, you will help your users and search engines more easily find your content.

Remember, only a single mistake may get your visitors frustrated and push them to move on to your competitor’s website. So these following takeaways will help you to improve your navigation and leave users happy.

Keep a content structure and hierarchies simple

Navigation acts as a road map - when its content hierarchies clear, the user benefits and the UX/UI develops for the better.

To help organize pages for the users and the search engines, you need to create an effective strategy to navigate through all that content. Then you should keep the top level of navigation for your central content – the content that you want your users to see first.

Try to put the content that is most vital to users in the most visually prominent blocks. Anything else can be dropped down to another level.

It’s standard practice to organize content by placing it within a hierarchy. The hierarchy exists to ease the process of placing content, and the end result is an intuitive structure that feels natural and familiar to the most of the users.

Further, when the content is complex and has a mass amount of information, it can be divided into separate categories. Also, you should build and support cross-linking between similar and related content in the databases.

Optimize a best website navigation for SEO

Website navigation, when done right, is excellent for SEO performance. You should definitely satisfy visitors by simplifying navigation and improving your website SEO. You can use descriptive anchor texts and important keywords to build your navigation menu.

With keywords or in other words, the phrases in your text that help to drive traffic and trigger visitors via search engines, your conversions will instantly increase.

And the menu and title of your homepage are the main blocks to include the most significant key phrases. These blocks should directly match what people search for.

If the website's main page brings to light what basic products and services a company provides, it will apparently outline what the company does up front. That allows users to easily know if they are on the right website. This is also the reason why your site architecture is important for SEO.

Improve a Drop Down Menu

To simplify your navigation and make it easier for users to move through a website, avoid multi-tier drop down menus. If you wish to have a successful website, let your visitors and customers pick from very basic menus.

Multi-tier drop down menus can be troublesome for search engines to index. Depending on how they are developed, they may lead to some issues.

Not mentioning that drop down menus can be really annoying due to the fact that users move their eyes much quicker than they move the mouse. When a user moves the cursor to a menu bar, he or she has likely already chosen what to click.

Simplify the homepage by limiting the number of items

Sometimes, you can find lots of items on the landing page. Users can simply get lost. Try to limit your website's primary navigation or menu to no more than 7 items. Ten is too many. So, 15 or 20 is also pure insanity.

Set a limit to the menu items on your web pages so that users do not get confused and leave the page - these are the best practices.

If your homepage has tons of links, for example, this will weaken the authority and reduce the probability that the inside pages will rank.

In that case, you should remove some of the links to redouble the amount of authority passed from the homepage, and increase the possibility of your inside pages to rank.

Navigation on mobile devices

Responsive web design certainly is a change brought about by the advent of mobile devices and mobile website navigation best practices. The most concerning issues of different devices are their displays sizes that frequently obstruct visibility while multitasking visitors are searching with a single finger.

That puts navigation quite high on the checklist of web development priorities. The website is worth nothing if it confuses visitors and customers, and doesn’t include full mobile functionality and easier access to information.

Fonts and contrasts

Ensure that your navigation helps users easily view and read the content. You should pick a clean font and make it taller with some additional spaces between the letters. Both developers and designers choose Times New Roman, Helvetica, Arial, or Courier since none of them has exaggerated ornamentation.

Keep in mind, your design and branding blocks have to be consistent with color, typography, and style. The navigation buttons have to be similar to each other. Pay attention to color contrast, consistency of site navigation, no blinking or flashing graphics.

It's recommended to increase the font size for better readability and limit graphics (especially on the homepage).

Final thoughts

Improving navigation is just the beginning. After a certain period of time, you will need to begin using analytics, tracking and report tools to look at your accomplishments, make an evaluation and get a new baseline to work from.

It's an important step you have to consider in your practice, as it helps to see if your navigation works well for both humans and search engines. Sure, a good website has to be flexible; however, each case is individual.

You should keep in mind, whatever can be made easier, make it easier. Simplicity really is your best website navigation practice. This matters especially to the landing pages, where visitors should focus exclusively on the main items and the blocks that are most relevant to their search needs.

Author bio: My name is Gleb Smolich, I am a developer with 4 years of experience in IT working at Agentestudio in Minsk, Belarus. The development of RoR-based web applications is my prime area of expertise.

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