Find out why a solid navigation scheme is the most significant element in website design.
A well-designed website has many important elements: elegant layout, pleasing color scheme, eye-catching graphics, and of course, relevant content. But unlike traditional print media where we typically read from cover to cover, there is no universal standard for interacting with a website. Users rely solely on a site’s navigation scheme to guide them through their experience.
In web lingo, a site’s navigation is often referred to as the menu. Think of how a great restaurant menu works: it’s a useful metaphor for web navigation.
A good menu should:
- Communicate effectively
(FOOD is probably not a specific enough heading, but wordy menus can be confusing too. Find a concise balance.)
- Look visually appealing
(Ever order something because the picture looked soooo delicious? Who hasn’t!)
- Emphasize what the customer wants and what you do best
(Make sure your highest-priority elements are easiest to find. I would expect IHOP’s menu to feature Pancakes prominently. )
- Utilize resources in an efficient manner
(Maybe dessert deserves its own page, but soups and salads are often grouped together.)
Effective ways to Improve your Navigation
Simple, intuitive solutions are usually the best option. Unconventional menus can be confusing and even scare people away. But that doesn’t mean your site nav needs to be boring! Below are some navigation trends that can help spice up your site.
Expanding Navigation is a new trend in dynamic websites. Sometimes one or two keywords isn’t enough to effectively communicate the content of a section. A dynamic navigation scheme can expand to show additional information when a user clicks or hovers over a particular link. This can save users from heading to the wrong place, and also looks really slick and professional.
Visually appealing icons can be effective. If a picture is worth a thousand words, then the right icon can illicit a thousand clicks. When using icons in your menu, make sure that they are easily recognizable, clearly convey the message, and correspond to the link they stand for.
Footer links can help declutter.
What about Search functionality?
In a recent study, 70 percent of people started a given task by clicking on a link, while 30 percent used search: Generally, search is not a task that we enjoy. The larger the website, the more important it becomes to have quality search. However, there is a direct correlation between the quality of your navigation and the quality of your search. The better the navigation, the better the search results will be.
When designing or re-designing your site, focus on creating a solid, functional and intuitive navigation scheme and your users will thank you (by returning frequently)!