Did you know that website navigation structures affect conversions? They can make websites easy or difficult to use; they can increase or decrease the percentage of visitors that convert into customers and/or leads; they affect how much traffic businesses get from search; and how high businesses rank on SERPs (search engine results pages).
As you can see, minute details in any website navigation structure make a BIG difference! Oftentimes, there is no point in having a uber-creative website if visitors are unable to navigate around it and find all of the information they are searching for.
There has never been a better time than now to start improving your site’s navigation. Below are some tips on website navigation best practices. Read on to find out what to do and what not to do.
Implement Hamburger Menus
Today, it is important to design and develop websites that look great on both desktop and mobile devices. When it comes to website menus, the format that’s typically used on desktop browsers can’t be copied over to your tablets, mobile phones, and other smart devices. It takes up too much space!
Fortunately, hamburger menus were developed to resolve the abovementioned issue. This type of menu is comprised of three short horizontal lines with curved edges.
This hamburger icon typically appears in the top right corner of mobile websites, and it reveals the navigation menu upon a single click. Of course, there are several variations of this icon and they may look like:
According to the Nielsen Norman Group, hidden navigation tends to increase the overall task completion time for visitors. That’s why it helps to add a “menu” word to help visitors quickly find this type of hidden navigation.
Shift Important Links to the Start of the Navigation Structure
Although the number of items in a website menu matters, one should never neglect their order. If you can give visitors what they want in as little time as possible, then they are likely to help you achieve search and traffic-related goals. Try seeing website navigation as a list. Items at the beginning and the end get the most attention due to the serial position effect. For this reason, reserve these visually prominent places for links that lead to your company’s key products and services.
Keep Your Website Navigation Structure Concise
At some point of time, you may chance upon websites that feature hundreds of links on their home pages. Keep in mind that these sites are perfect examples of what not to do. Instead, limit the number of links in the main navigation.
Here’s why: the homepage has the most authority with search engines as other sites tend to link to it than to inner pages. Because this authority flows down to the inner pages through your navigation, it may get diluted if the homepage has too many links. This reduces the chances of your inner pages ranking well.
Suppose the website navigation structure is comprised of 65 items. When combined with every other button and link on the page, the total number of home page links is now 275. This means that the amount of authority that each of those pages get is divided by 275.
Keep your navigation concise by featuring only seven items because that’s what most individuals’ short-term memory can handle. If you have too many items on the list, there are higher chances of visitors scanning past important items. What should you do if you need to utilize more than seven items? Consider breaking them up into groups of five to seven items.
Don’t Use Dropdown Menus
Although dropdown menus are popular options, many of them have failed usability tests. When a visitor hovers his or her mouse over a menu item, chances are the individual has already decided to click. The visitor, however, is suddenly presented with more options. If you were in the person’s shoes, wouldn’t you feel frustrated?
So, avoid dropdown menus if you don’t need them. In addition to encouraging visitors to skip important pages, these menus can be difficult for search engines to crawl through due to how they are programmed. Mega dropdown, however, is one type of menu that has performed well in usability studies.
These menus can be implemented on websites that have a lot of pages or have a diverse set of products or services. It is important to note that these menus can still significantly increase the number of links from the home page.
Utilize Descriptive Labels
A) Generic menu labels include Solutions, Services, and Products.
B) Descriptive menu labels include Watch Collections, Tile and Grout Cleaning, and Fleet Maintenance.
Unfortunately, no one is searching for labels that were shown in A. Those labels do not improve a website’s navigation and rankings. The navigation bar has significant visual prominence and it communicates instantly. By being descriptive in what your company does up front, visitors will know they are in the right place, and search engines will know that you are truly about that topic.
It’s time to give these ideas a try! The goal is to make the website navigation work well for both search engine robots and human visitors. If you are unsure which navigation elements to change, it is recommended that you consult with a web designer.