website navigation best practices

Website Navigation Best Practices – Improve Your UX and SEO

By: Frank DePino | August 22, 2023

Website navigation can make or break your business—quite literally.

According to a report by Top Design Firms, 38% of people evaluate the layout and navigational links when visiting a website for the first time. This emphasizes the need for accessible website navigation design, as 42% of respondents said they would abandon a site with poor functionality.

So, how do you create an engaging user experience for all visitors?

Mediaboom has your back with this comprehensive guide to website navigation best practices.

First, let’s define some terms.

What Is Website Navigation?

Website navigation is a collection of features like copy, link text and buttons, and menus, that allow visitors to move from one page to another. Users must be able to find the information they’re looking for with little to no friction or frustration.

This roadmap interlinks every page, providing much-needed context while maintaining the website’s hierarchy.

It’s a core reason visitors continue browsing a website for long periods.

However, navigation goes beyond improving user experience. When done right, it can help search engines better understand what your business offers. This can boost search engine rankings, drive traffic to your website, increase browsing time, and even enhance lead generation.

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What Is a Navigation Bar on a Website?

A navigation bar (or menu) is a section on the homepage that links to a collection of internal web pages. Its purpose is to help users find the pages that are most useful to them.

The navigation bar can be hidden or easy to access from anywhere on the homepage.

This element is critical to your website’s success. It must be functional, easy to use, and deliver essential information and resources to all visitors.

Types of Website Navigation

A crucial part of nailing website navigation best practices is knowing no two types of website navigation are equal.

We’ve listed common types of website navigation so you can choose one that best resonates with your target audience:

Drop-down Navigation Menu

This is the best option if you have a content-rich website with many pages to include in your main navigation menu. You can easily group all the informative links under general headings and make them accessible with a single click.

These mega menus collapse via animation, allowing users to see and do more with pages relevant to their needs.

Website experts at CNN created more user-friendly interaction on the website using drop-down navigation

Footer Navigation Menu

This is typically used when you can only fit a handful of links to the main navigation bar. So, if visitors cannot find the link at the top, they can look for it at the bottom of the page.

The footer navigation menu also holds company contact details, social media links, information about the company, terms and conditions, privacy policy, and other legal must-haves.

You can also throw in an extra CTA to give visitors all they need to reach the end of the sales funnel.

Hamburger Menu

A hamburger menu is a three-line button that groups all navigation links in one place. The menu appears when visitors click on the icon and remains hidden otherwise.

This dynamic website navigation design is excellent for mobile-first websites and apps, reducing clutter on devices with limited-screen real estate.

Horizontal Navigation Bar

It is the most commonly used website navigation bar design.

Displayed at the top of the page, it includes a list of important pages in the header, arranged side by side. The sections are just one or two words, such as “About,” “Products,” “Login,” etc.

This navigation bar is often fixed, so it’s a great place to add a contact button, using a clear CTA and color psychology to convince people to take a specific action.

Vertical Sidebar Menu

This expands from the side of the page when you click on an icon and stays in the same place as you scroll. It facilitates easy browsing by displaying all the important links at once without crowding the design.

The vertical sidebar can be hidden until the visitor opens it. It is popular for e-commerce, online magazines, and other websites with many pages to display.

10 Website Navigation Best Practices

These best practices for website navigation will improve user experience and make it easier for search engines to index your website:

Stripe's website shows a perfect example of simple website navigation with improved user experience.

1. Keep It Simple

The navigation bar exists to guide users to pages they can visit. Keep it simple, using one or two words for descriptions to remove uncertainty from the equation. Simplicity will help users go where they want to in just a few steps.

It would also be a good idea to limit the number of levels in the website hierarchy, using the three-click rule to avoid overwhelming your user’s journey.

2. Consistent Navigation

Here’s a tip for website navigation best practices.

Make sure the menu looks the same on every web page. This extends to all elements: menu, sub-menu, and headings. Cohesiveness is critical for a good user experience. Any deviation, such as a link that does not flow with the existing menu, could lead to bounce rates.

3. Make It Responsive and Mobile-Friendly

Mobile devices account for a staggering 56.96% of global website traffic.

[Depending on what you sell, this can be different for you. Check it via Audience > Mobile > Overview > Reports > Tech > Tech overview on Universal Analytics]

To capture a large audience, make sure your navigation menu is responsive on all screen sizes to deliver the best user experience. This can be as simple as using a hamburger menu to reduce shopping cart abandonment—no mean feat, seeing that 85.65% of mobile users tend to hit the exit button on the checkout page.

With a mobile-optimized website, you can also gain a competitive advantage.

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4. Use Clear and Concise Labels

Use descriptive key phrases instead of generic labels like “products,” “services,” “solutions,” etc., to show visitors what they can expect when they click on a specific navigation item. This eliminates the risk of visitors clicking away because they’re frustrated by the vague terms.

It will also help search engines index your website for relevant keywords and phrases, which can drive traffic and increase conversions and sales.

Don’t know how to go about it? Use Google Trends to see what people look up, optimize terms for geographic locations, and sit back and watch the results unfold.

5. Implement a Search Function

More than 40% of users say a search bar is the most important feature on the website. Incorporating it into your website navigation design will help visitors find things in an instant.

A search function leads to easy-to-navigate websites, even those with tons of pages and features. It improves time on site and reduces bounce rate.

6. Prioritize Navigation Based on User Needs

As a general rule of website navigation design best practices, don’t base your strategy on what looks good to you. Focus on what your users need.

Consider the pages users navigate to the most and ensure they are easy to access. Highlight certain pages that facilitate purchases to guide visitors further along the sales funnel.

Italy Travel Secrets uses breadcrumbs to make it easier for users to navigate the site

7. Use Breadcrumbs

Breadcrumb navigation is one of the most important website navigation best practices you can use. It allows users to visualize the path they have taken so far. It is a location indicator that makes it easy for people to retrace their steps, eliminating the hassle of clicking the back button over and over again to go back to their desired page.

In fact, it appears right below the header, with the “greater than” symbol (>) separating pages.

8. Limit Drop Down Menus

Drop-down menus keep the nav bar clean, crisp, and neatly organized, but they can also do more harm than good. They can encourage function creep, making the site harder to navigate if you add more and more list items.

Plus, they’re not very accessible and can pose all sorts of usability issues.

9. Keep the Number of Menu Items Limited

Empirical evidence suggests that an average person’s short-term memory has the capacity to remember seven items. This is why it is best to keep the number of items in your menu between five and seven to make the information easier to scan and process. This also leads to a less cluttered page.

If you have more than seven critical items to link, you can use a drop-down or hamburger menu.

10. Regularly Test and Update Navigation

One of the best website navigation best practices is to monitor results using analytics (more on this below). To this end, you can use a combination of heatmap tracking and KPIs to determine how people use your website. Determine what works and what doesn’t and update your designs based on the findings.

Case Studies of Good Website Navigation

Setting up good website navigation is no child’s play. It requires a lot of time and resources, and there’s still no guarantee you’ll get it right.

This is why you should consider leaving it to the pros.

At Mediaboom, we perform website analysis and use website navigation best practices to create a user experience that translates into a high ROI. Our professionals use their extensive industry knowledge and current and upcoming trends to deliver the best results.

Don’t take out word for it; believe our best website navigation examples instead.

Millennium Tower San Francisco

For this luxury high-rise building, we created a fully responsive, custom-designed, highly interactive website that puts its amenities and services front and center. Capitalizing on the power of stunning visuals—one of the most important aspects of web redesign—we showcased all that the Millenium Tower San Francisco had to offer in an engaging manner, lending it an air of exclusivity that visitors can’t resist.

JW Marriott

Our partnership with JW Marriott for their Houston Downtown address brought a +200% increase in traffic. We took inspiration from their rich history and combined it with modern elements to create a stunning website with a responsive framework.

>>And a dash of help with print pieces for the grand opening.

JW Marriott's good website navigation brought a rapid increase in their traffic.

Guardian Jet

We overhauled the product catalog and website for Guardian Jet, which claims roughly 1.9% of the market share. It brought a +732% increase in online leads, +1,409% increase in website traffic, +23% pages per session, and +61% avg. session duration, improving the user experience for global clients.

Want to see similar results for your biz? Contact our digital marketing agency today!

Common Mistakes in Website Navigation

Here are some mistakes to avoid while designing website navigation:

  • Putting your navigation menu in weird places. Follow the standardized format to take the guesswork out of the equation; you’ll lower the bounce rate with the ease of use that predictable navigation offers.
  • Not paying attention to order. Follow the principles of primacy and regency, keeping important items first or last on the list, as these get the most attention from users.
  • Using graphic buttons. They are not search-friendly or accessible for the visually impaired, and they take ages to load. Use text-based links instead.
  • Using too much negative space. Sure, minimalism is on trend, but don’t go so far as to make it hard for visitors to find the content they’re looking for.

One of the best website navigation best practices is to avoid leading your users to a dead end or pages that are still under construction. If you’re getting a digital makeover to boost your business, take users to another relevant webpage.

Tools for Improving Website Navigation

These tools will aid your journey toward better website navigation:


This testing tool by Optimal Workshop will help you identify how users navigate your site. It’s perfect for A/B testing when building an intuitive website interface, as it will analyze where and why people get lost in your content. This information could go a long way in improving your website’s architecture.

Google Analytics

A free tool available to anyone with a Google account, it tracks and reports website traffic to deliver the insights you need to grow your business. It’s statistics and basic analytical tools go a long way to describe, diagnose, and predict how users interact with your site. It also provides intel on where they encounter difficulties.

SEO and web design experts are eyeing Hotjar's data


This tool adds depth to the insight you get from Google Analytics. You can use it to visualize visitor behavior using heatmaps, session recordings, and surveys to understand how they use and interact with your site. This is a fantastic tool to improve user experience.


Get first-person feedback on a product, feature, or prototype to uncover any issues with usability and navigation. Knowing this can help you improve your website while keeping real people’s needs, wants, and preferences in mind.

Elevate Your Luxury Brand Today

Schedule Your Free Consultation

Seeking to elevate your luxury business? Let Mediaboom guide you. Secure your exclusive, free consultation with our luxury marketing experts today.

In Conclusion: Improve Your Website Navigation

While these website navigation best practices will go a long way to helping you unlock top-notch user experience, planning it out isn’t easy.

This is where Mediaboom can help you. We take the guesswork out of the equation to develop website navigation that feels most intuitive to your users.

Reach out to us to learn more about how we can help.

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.


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