Site navigation is something that many people create AFTER thinking about the pages and content. In a recent survey, only 50% of users were able to guess where they could find relevant content, guided by the structure of the site.

If half of your users can’t find the page they’re looking for – that’s a huge UX problem! It will result in a higher bounce rate, less time spent on the site and a lower conversion rate.

If you run an e-commerce site, poor navigation can affect your profits.

In this article we will give you tips on how to build a good navigation for your site to make it easier for your users.

What is site navigation?

Navigation is the process of navigating pages, applications and sites on the web. The technology behind it is called hypertext or hypermedia.

Hypertext or media are text-based web pages that use hyperlinks to link to other pages on the Internet. A hyperlink is a link that links your browser to a URL.

The URL indicates which file on the server should be accessed by the browser and downloads and presents it to the user in order to see it.

Internal links lead to other pages in the same domain. External links lead to pages from another domain.

Site navigation uses internal link menus to make it easier for the user to find the information they are looking for. Good navigation is an essential element of a user-oriented site.

What is a site navigation menu?

The site navigation menu is a set of links, usually to internal pages, that are organized in a menu. Most sites, including this one, have a menu at the top.

website navigation menu header example

This part is called the “header” of the site. Some of the most popular pages linked to these menus are:

  • About us
  • Blog
  • Contacts
  • Prices
  • Services

Of course, the menu can include links to other pages .

What is the navigation structure of a site?

The navigation structure of the site determines how the different pages are organized and linked to each other.

For example, some pages and content can only be reached by reaching a specific page. Designers and web developers often plan the navigation structure when building a website.

website navigation structure example

In this example, “About Us”, “Plans”, “Contacts” and “Blog” are pages linked in the main menu. To access “Mission” and “Team”, you must first visit “About Us”.

Why is navigation important for the site?

In presenting this post, you learned that 50% of Internet users cannot use the standard menu properly. Imagine how much they could find the right content without any navigation.

With the right approach to navigation and menus, you can reduce this percentage to below 50%. This will reduce the dropout rate, increase the average time a user spends on the site and lead to more traffic and customers.

What makes a navigation good?

A good navigation is always user-oriented. Uses clear, easy-to-understand language and connects the most important pages.

It also skillfully uses white boxes, color changes and other design techniques to easily distinguish it from other content. And also – easy to read on any device.

User-oriented navigation is also context-oriented. The user’s expectations and experiences must be taken into account. This may be the reason, for example, why online newspapers can’t get rid of their “crowded” design. Because this is what the user expects, which includes very detailed menus of categories and subcategories.

8 principles for improved site navigation

Even if you are a beginner, you will be able to make excellent navigation for your site by following the tips below.

1. Plan your structure and navigation

Before you start writing content for your site, plan the structure and navigation.

Planning is a key part of the process of providing user-friendly navigation.

2. Follow the established standards

Do not try to reinvent the wheel. Site navigation is for usability rather than creativity.

For basic design elements, such as where to position the menu and how to indicate that it is expanding – use familiar standards.

The three horizontal lines – “☰ hamburger menu” is one of the most recognizable icons to identify the menu deployment. Another is the three points located horizontally.

If you want to be creative and create your own icon – chances are many users do not understand its purpose and have difficulty finding the menu.

3. Use the user dictionary

Instead of linking to the same old pages, use a language that is closer to what the user is looking for.

This approach is useful for both SEA and usability. Create pages that reflect what users are looking for online.

You can associate them with the same words and phrases that the user should use to find them on Google.

4. Use customizable menus

Since over 52% of traffic is carried by a mobile device, adaptive design is an absolute must.

Instead of menus that make the phone look too crowded, make sure you use drop-down mobile menus.

5. Take advantage of the menu in the footer

Readers who scroll to the bottom of the page are more engaged with the content than the standard user. Take advantage of this and use the space at the end of the site to position important content.

The footer allows you to add links to content that you can’t find space for in the header.

6. Use color and white space to separate the navigation from the other elements

Use colors, fonts, and white space to separate your menus from other parts and sidebars. Make it clear where the menu begins and ends.

It doesn’t matter what language you use in the menu, or which pages you link to in it – site navigation should be easy to find first.

7. Avoid drop-down menus

For most sites (not all), drop-down menus are not necessary or useful. When users see a link in the menu, the assumption is that it clicks. Unless the design separates it from the links that are clicked – it can lead to confusion.

Having too many links in the main menu can have a negative impact on your site.

Using hierarchical and logical navigation instead of drop-down menus can lead to smoother use. It also allows the user to interact with more pages and spend more time on the site, instead of just browsing a huge set of link lists.

8. Simplify the structure

If you want to make it as easy as possible for the user to browse the pages of your site, keep the structure of the site as simple as possible.

Instead of linking a large number of pages and subpages from your homepage, stick to a simpler option.

Make sure the important categories have links on the home page, and link their subdirectories after them.

flat structure example

There is evidence that a simple and flat structure has a positive effect on SEO and can lead to site links in Google. Therefore, do not confuse your navigation!

Trends in web navigation in 2020

Although web design trends in recent years have included things like 3D design and the like, things aren’t that interesting for menus.

But that doesn’t mean nothing has changed. Here are some of the most interesting trends of recent years.

Expandable categories in full screen menus (for mobile devices)

Uber - menu mobile

Uber and other huge corporations, with a renovated and modern design, have updated their menus to make them more usable.

The problem for these companies is that they have many different products and categories and that it may be impossible to include them in one menu.

This results in clear, categorized and expandable mobile menus instead of an endless list of links.

Floating menus in the header

Perhaps the universal trend for menus in the last few years is floating menus.

This menu is floating, which sticks to the top of the browser as you scroll down. Usually – this is part of the header, which includes a small logo, and perhaps a search icon.

It is difficult to dispute, as constant access to the menu makes internal navigation much easier.

Summary

This post should have given you clarity on what site navigation is and what its key elements are.

Navigation should always be focused on simplicity, clarity, not so much on intense colors and creative design.

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