Whether you’re launching a new websites or updating an existing one, you can improve your site’s accessibility by taking the time to properly plan your navigation – the tabs, buttons, or links commonly displayed at the top or left of the homepage that help visitors get around the site itself.
Often, these website “maps” can be overcrowded with information, or are just too generic and vague in their language, to be useful for visitors trying to find their way through the site.
Below are some tips to ensure your navigation is helping your visitors and your business.
Don’t make your site’s navigation menu too complex. It’s not only possible, but actually quite common for businesses to give visitors too many options. Instead of trying to fit as much of your site into your navigation as possible, find ways to cut down on the clutter.
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You don’t want to lose possible customers simply because they found the prospect of navigating your site too daunting, time-consuming, or confusing. Miss the mark, and they may just move onto a competitor’s site to try their luck there instead.
Your navigation menu should describe your content. One common navigation-structuring practice is to include generic buttons and links that have no inherent, unique meaning for your company.
Instead of menu options like “Products” or “About” that aren’t very descriptive, go for menu links and buttons that describe your company or product. For example, if you sell t-shirts, replace “Products” with (you guessed it) “T-Shirts.” Or, if you’re worried about limiting yourself in terms of future expansion, go with something like “Clothes” or “Clothing.” This may seem like something small, but it can help customers find what they’re looking for and also improve your SEO.
Provide visitors will multiple paths to a destination. Everyone has their own way searching for what they want on a site. Instead, provide multiple ways to get to key information on your site. Don’t rely solely on that top navigation, particularly for popular pages that may be several layers in.
For example, you can provide a direct link to a ‘popular pages’ section or frequently asked questions. From there, you can provide more links to the most commonly accessed pages. It provides added ease of use by allowing people to get to a page with fewer clicks required.
Prioritize navigation based on your traffic. Current visitors can tell you a lot about what you need to prioritize to make the most of this traffic. Using your site’s analytics, determine what sections or pages are the most popular with users. These findings can inform your decisions on what to prioritize for that top navigation. Your most popular pages need to be the easiest for user to find, so they should be the most prominent ones.
Avoid Dropdown Menus in Your Navigation. Dropdown menus may seem like an attractive addition to your navigation menu, but in reality, they may be hurting your site in terms of both SEO and user-friendliness.
Why? Because those types of menus can be difficult for search engines to crawl, and this could affect your ranking in search result lists. Moreover, many web users find them tedious, and they often cause visitors to completely skip some sections or pages.
Instead of using dropdowns, think about what navigation goal you’re trying to accomplish and see if it is possible to use another tool in their place.
Use your site’s navigation to set your business apart. Take a look at some of your direct competitors’ sites. Are they doing something wrong with their navigation? What might you be able to learn from their mistakes?
Take pride in the structuring of your site’s navigation and visitors will notice your efforts, especially if competitors have navigation issues that you’re able to address successfully and efficiently on your own site.
Putting it All Together
Making your website easier for visitors to navigate will help your company’s business in many ways. Not only will it make it easier for you to turn your website’s visitors into paying customers, you’ll be able to improve your customer relations, search rankings, and web traffic. All of these things go a long way in helping your image with both prospects and current customers.