Why Clear Navigation Matters in Web Design

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Browsing a website is not linear like reading a book. You can jump back and forth between pages, which means that, as a website owner, you have absolutely no control over how your visitors will use your website.

Your website has, literally, only a few seconds to grab a visitor’s attention. In that time, they will scan webpages to determine whether they have found what they are looking for, and research has shown that we do so in an ‘F’ pattern, i.e. we look at the top banner, the left-hand side of the page, and scan a bit of the content in the middle.

We have become an online society, with an incredible amount of information, goods and services available 24/7, so much so that the idea of calling a contact centre and having to wait to talk to an operator has become a last resort. Customers expect online journeys to be efficient and easy, and if they can’t see clearly the path to what we want to do, they are not going to spend time to work it out. They will just go somewhere else.

So here is how you can make sure that your website structure is clear and doesn’t lose you visitors.

  1. Forget everything you know about your business

 The greatest mistake you can make is to design your navigation structure the way you think it makes sense. You know your goods and services inside out and you won’t necessarily be thinking about them the way outsiders will. So try to imagine that you know nothing about your company, have a look at what your competitors are doing and test your website structure on friends or current customers.

  1. Meet customers’ expectations

Every business wants to look unique and different, and it is indeed crucial to stand out from the crowd. However, when it comes to website navigation, don’t try to be original and create a funky menu. Your priority should be about making your customers’ journey easy. Be boring and place your menu where menus are expected, use common colour coding and clearly indicate next steps. It isn’t a treasure hunt but a commercial relationship!

  1. A website isn’t a book

Obviously…

What we mean by that is that visitors won’t access your information in a linear way, so don’t structure your website on the assumption that they will have read that page beforehand and therefore this page will make sense. Treat each page as though it was the only page in your website and ensure that it is self-contained.

  1. Keep It Simple

Don’t have too many menu entries. They should all fit on one line. If you have more than 7 or 8 entries, it is time to go back to the drawing board and rethink about the coherence of your structure. Likewise, don’t use more than one sublevel of menu. It is difficult to navigate, especially on tablets and mobile phone.

  1. Signpost the webpage content

Break up your text with headings, use bullet points or create areas for specific information. People are more likely to stay on your site if you give them bitesize information than an essay.

Make sure your visitors know what to do next with calls to action. If you want them to contact you, add your contact details, if you want them to make a purchase, have a ‘Buy It’ button everywhere relevant.

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