In this post, I am going to look at the importance of effective website navigation.
It is easy to get overexcited when planning a new website. You just have all this great stuff to share - it can be tricky to know what to prioritise.
Should you highlight your About page to show your brand’s personality? Should you put your products and services front and centre?
What about your blog? Your fees? Your FAQs? Your contact details?
It is at times like these - when you are feeling overwhelmed by your website content - that you become really thankful that some clever person developed website navigation bars.
Could you imagine an online world without website navigation bars? They just make our lives so much easier. They enable us to find the content that we want quickly and easily.
If we go down the rabbit hole of content on a particular website, we know that the navigation bar is there to transport us back to where we started.
Navigation bars are also a crucial part of website design. The style and location of a navigation bar is one of the first design building blocks I focus on when creating a new website.
There are several design options. For example, you can place your navigation bar:
At the very top of your website, before your main image
Below your main image or logo
In the left or right hand margin
Floating at the top of your website page and following you down as you scroll
Behind an icon so that it seems invisible
The key thing to bear in mind is ease of access. You want to make things as easy as possible for your visitors. If they can’t find what they want - and quickly - they will simply click away from your website.
Similarly, if your website visitors find it hard to get back to your homepage (or any of your key pages) they will become frustrated and click away.
Examples of Navigation Design
Navigation Bar Design
A few years ago, it was all the rage to have quirky navigation bar designs. For example, if you had a bakery website you would have cute little cake icons in your navigation bar. Or your navigation bar would live inside a mixing bowl.
In addition, some websites favoured navigation bars with lots of bells and whistles. Some bars moved when you hovered your mouse over them, some icons changed their shape or colour and some made funny sounds.
In my opinion, some of these navigation bar designs worked and some didn’t. To be honest, I much prefer a simple, yet stylish bar - and that goes for my navigation bars too!
Anatomy Of Navigation
Once you have decided on the best location for your navigation bar, it is time to select the pages that you want to feature.
This is not always as easy as it sounds.
I have had many conversations with clients who want to put all of their web pages in their navigation bar. Then, before you know where you are, you have a bar that runs two or three lines long.
It is crucial to avoid overwhelming visitors with information.
I tend to use a department store as a useful analogy. If you visit a department store you need to select the floor that you need. If that store had a lift/elevator button for absolutely everything it sells, you would soon feel overwhelmed with choices and perhaps even leave to find somewhere simpler.
This is why many stores have a floor dedicated to one, more general, topic. Home ware, for example. Once you have arrived on this floor, you will then be offered other, more specialist options - cushions, bedding, crockery etc.
You will also notice that wherever you go on this floor, there will be signs pointing you back to the lift/elevator so that you can access other parts of the store.
In the same way, you should keep your website navigation simple by:
Making sure your navigation bar occupies a prominent position on every web page
Only offering a select number of key navigation points so that these choices fit comfortably on one line
Using links, buttons and drop down menus within your web pages to help your visitors access more, specific
- Implementing a ‘scroll to top’ button onto your website so that your visitors can return to your navigation bar easily.
So what should you include in your main navigation bar? Here is what I advise my clients:
Home - the page that your visitors are most likely to start from and the one you want them to find again
About - you need a page that allows your visitors to find out more about you and your brand’s unique
Products / Services - this page describes (in general terms) what you and your business has to offer. On this page you can
then include buttons, images and links that can take your visitors to other web pages with additional information
Blog / News - if you have a blog or news page, it is crucial that you highlight it in your navigation bar
Contact - you want to offer your visitors multiple opportunities to get in touch. One of these should be in your navigation
In addition, to these core navigation bar features you could also add:
The exact anatomy of your navigation bar will, of course, depend on your own business and website design. However, always remember, simplicity is the best policy.
Thanks for reading! I hope that you have found this post useful.
Take care, Jane