Even the most beautiful website is not guaranteed to actually drive results or help to grow your business. If your visitors don’t like it, the best design and graphics matter little. That’s why user experience (UX) should play a crucial part in any web development and management effort.
As its name suggests, UX describes the degree to which your website is easy and comfortable to use for any visitors. Particular emphasis, of course, is paid to members of your target audience, along with their expectations and satisfaction as they browse around your site and find (or don’t find) your conversion points.
It’s a complex topic, and one that should permeate your entire website strategy. Emphasizing UX during the build but not during regular updates means starting at a great point, but allowing it to decompose over time. The way visitors navigate around your online presence is a particularly important factor in this effort. To maximize the success of your online presence, consider these 9 UX tips to improve your website navigation.
1) Always Stay Consistent with User Conventions
Your navigation is not the place to differentiate your brand. The best choice is following the conventions your visitors are already used to, such as:
- • Keeping the main menu horizontal near the top of the page.
- • Linking the logo on the top right of all pages back to the home page.
- • Making the menu stand out from the background through contrasting colors.
The more consistent you are, the easier the navigation will be for visitors who are used to the ways in which most sites operate.
2) Adjust Your Menus to Usage Situations
Never assume that the same menu will work for all situations. Instead, treat your navigation the same way you treat your entire website: make it response. Its size should change based on screen size, collapsing into a hamburger menu for mobile devices. Complex main menus with countless choices do not tend to work well for this type of adjustability. In fact, 67% of your users will leave if they don’t find a mobile-friendly navigation.
3) Keep an Updated Planning Sheet For Your Menus
Don’t build your menu alongside your website. Instead, plan it out ahead of time. Know exactly how you want to organize your website, and stick to that organization even as your online presence expands. A simple excel planning sheet can help you keep track of a navigation and keep it easy to operate for first-time and returning visitors as your website becomes more complex.
4) For Complex Sites, Consider a Multi-Menu Structure
Speaking of complex sites: if your structure developed through the planning document above becomes too complex, consider a secondary menu. Many large websites, for instance, use a vertical menu in addition to their horizontal top menu to get into sections and subsections of their website. That vertical menu can change with individual pages and sections, whereas the primary menu should stay consistent across your website.
5) Show the User Breadcrumbs of Where they Are
Never leave your users guessing on where they are at a given point in time. Especially mobile users on a hamburger menu will need to know how they can easily get back to where they came from, should the need arise. Fortunately, you can easily accomplish that feat through ‘breadcrumbs’, such as a navigation path on each page of your website. That way, navigating back to a higher-level site is never more than a click away.
6) Keep Your Primary Navigation Consistent
Secondary navigation items might change over time. But ideally, your core navigation – from your homepage to your about us section – should always remain available for your users. Typically, that is represented in a bar across the top, or the first choices of a hamburger menu for mobile users. Either way, keep it consistent on every page so that your users can always get back to the major pages should the need arise.
7) Don’t Get Fancy With Menu Titles
In graphic and web design, it’s tempting to get fancy. But if that creativity starts taking away from your UX, you have a problem. Instead of getting fancy with your language and design within the navigation, keep it simple. That way, you avoid alienating the significant number of visitors who will leave your site simply because it takes them more than a few seconds to find what they need.
8) Place Universal Links in Your Footer
9) Never Underestimate the Search Feature
Too many businesses don’t consider the search feature to be part of their website’s navigation. In reality, it just might be the most important tool you have available. Almost 90 percent of companies don’t optimize their internal search, even though 30 percent of visitors actively use it. Through smart optimization, you can help your users find exactly what they’re looking for without ever having to click on a navigation link. New trends, such as voice search, will further enhance the importance of this feature.
Building A UX-Centered Navigation
UX means making sure that as your visitors arrive on your website, they have as pleasant of an experience as possible. That necessarily means optimizing your navigation with your target audience in mind. Especially as more users browse your site on mobile devices, effective menus can make the difference between a bounce and a conversion.
That means taking a strategic approach to your navigation is absolutely crucial. Plan it out, and don’t be afraid to follow conventions. Test it with real users to see their reactions and improvement suggestions before rolling it out to a wider audience. Through building a UX-centered navigation, you can maximize the potential of your website as well as its impact on your business.
By: Frank DePino
Frank DePino is Principal and Founder of Mediaboom. Since 2002, Frank has led Mediaboom’s award-winning staff of creative and technical professionals building the most effective marketing and advertising solutions for its clients.