Navigation bars are an important part of website design. When your website contains a lot of content and functionality your navigation bar is either your worst enemy or your greatest ally. How do you make sure your website navigation is helping you convert web traffic into customers?

Your website’s information architecture- how the information is structured and presented- plays a key role in how your navigation bar is styled. However, if the information is not properly organized with correct labels, you’ll frustrate visitors, even if your navigation bar looks fantastic.

Let’s take a look at common navigation mistakes to avoid and explore solutions you can use to enhance the user experience:

Common Mistakes

  • Too many items in your navigation bar. Keep your navigation clean and simple. Users generally already know what they’re looking for.
  • Ordering your navigation items in a way that doesn’t make sense. Order your options in a way you’d feel comfortable using as a new visitor.
  • Vague or unclear page titles. Your viewers should never have to click on a link to figure out where the link leads.
  • Lengthy drop-down menus. These encourage users to skip over the important content you actually want them to see.

Don’t try to jam pack all of your menu items into your primary navigation bar if you have a lot of pages. Instead, prioritize the pages you think are most important and consider creating space for a secondary navigation bar. Keep in mind that your secondary navigation bar is not a good location for the primary content. It’s still a great place to point users towards additional content like news and partnership information.

Key Guidelines

  • Research your users’ needs. Try not to design based on your own preferences.
  • Try card sorting. This will help you evaluate your site’s information architecture.
  • Create a site map. This quickly outlines the pages of your website
  • Be sure your navigation bar maintains a consistent look and feel. Make sure this holds true across all of your pages.
  • Keep it simple if possible. Try not to overwhelm your viewers with too much information.
  • Keep the goals for your website in mind. This goes double if there is a very specific action you would like them to take while visiting your website.  The last thing you want is for users to overlook the main purpose of your website.

One could argue that the placement, order of items and all-around design of your navigation bar has the ability to make or break your website. Step back and take a look at your site’s navigational structure. If there are glaring issues, take the time to analyze these problems and be sure your navigation bar isn’t detouring potential customers away from the information they seek.

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