12 best practices to improve website navigation
Website navigation is meant to lead users through the website and help them find what they want. This is something a user-friendly website cannot do without. In our mission to help all websites get better, we are now sharing the best practices to improve website navigation.
Why is website navigation important?
An intuitively understandable, clear, and logical website navigation does a world of good to your site and business — it:
- boosts conversions by helping users find the desired things
- improves customer satisfaction
- reduces bounce rate and encourages users to stay longer
- confidently leads users through the website
- showcases more options to users
- benefits your SEO
Best practices that help improve website navigation
1. Make the main navigation bar easy to find
Your website’s main menu should easily capture the user’s attention. Its position should be predictable — it’s usually the header, top left or top right corner, or sidebar. Unusual and creative menu positioning should be obvious to users. A good color and contrast policy will help you improve the menu visibility.
2. Make sure the navigation is ready for “mobile-first”
Making sure your menu is easy to use on mobile devices is an absolute must. Among the numerous reasons is the mobile-first indexing implemented by Google, which means the search giant primarily uses the website’s mobile version for indexing. Recently Google also announced that mobile-first indexing will be enabled by default for all new websites.
3. Use clear, concise, and descriptive navigation titles
The names of your menu items should describe the contents of the linked page clearly and in a user-friendly language. Your audience wants to know what they will get when they click on a particular link. Clearly written link titles also improve web accessibility for visitors who rely on screen readers. Finally, it improves your SEO, so don’t forget to use your keywords.
4. Provide ALT text for clickable images
Here is another practice to improve website navigation that overlaps with web accessibility. Images should have ALT text describing their contents. In the context of navigation, clickable images that serve as navigation items on your website should describe the linked page.
5. Keep the navigation simple
If your website is not a marketplace or an online supermarket, it will be easy to keep the navigation simple. Don’t puzzle and overwhelm your audience with choices, or they might experience a “paradox of choice” defined by the famous psychologist Barry Schwartz. Use no more than 7-8 options on the primary menu. They should reflect your most important pages or the most desired choices.
6. Consider using breadcrumbs
Especially if your website is complex, breadcrumbs can greatly improve the user experience in helping your visitors find their way through the site. Breadcrumbs are popular navigation elements that look like clickable strings of links, usually horizontal ones. They either repeat the path a user has walked, or reflect the website’s hierarchy.
7. Try sticky navigation
A sticky navigation menu is one that stays locked in its place as the user scrolls or browses the website, so it remains available from everywhere on the website. Sticky menus improve navigation speed and are appreciated by people, although some may consider them intrusive. Sticky navigation is especially handy for websites requiring some action (for example, in e-commerce) and for long web pages.
8. Divide categories and subcategories clearly
If you cannot avoid a complicated menu structure with categories and subcategories, they should be divided clearly from each other. This can be provided by means of UX design elements like colors and contrasts. Handy icons to indicate the categories also improve usability.
9. Make sure your search feature works well
The search feature is a useful navigation element that speeds up reaching a user’s goal. When they use the search, they are more likely to make a conversion. It’s better when your search feature has additional usability features like stem search, alternate spellings, suggestions of similar items, and so on.
10. Add a fat footer
Footers that are limited to contact information and social links are going into the past. More and more websites are getting fat footers that provide links to the key pages. In many cases, a fat footer even repeats the header navigation bar. Fat footers are handy for users who have scrolled down and remembered or decided to look something up.
11. Always link your logo to your homepage
A rule of thumb of the World Wide Web is that your logo should always link back to your main page. When uses want to return to a “starting point,” they click on the logo and expect to be taken to the homepage.
12. Offer different menus to different audiences
You will save valuable space and avoid clutter if you personalize your menus to different user groups — for example, teachers and students, property owners and buyers, and so on. When each of them selects their menu, they will enjoy more targeted navigation, which saves space and improves usability.
Improve your website’s navigation today!
There are no identical websites. Each needs an individual approach to navigation. A lot depends on the number of your products or services, your industry, your priorities, and so on.
Our digital agency specialists have the expertise to improve website navigation in your individual case. Our front-end developers, designers, and SEO experts are ready to use their skills.