When people visit your website, there’s a good chance they have at least a basic idea of what they’re looking to find. To help them find the most relevant part of your website as quickly as possible, easy and intuitive navigation is essential.

There are many things to keep in mind as you design this specific part of your website. Here are some best practices that can help you create a positive experience for everyone who visits your site.

Minimize the Number of Navigation Items

The more pages and options that people have to choose from when determining which part of your website is most relevant to them, the higher the chance is that they’ll get confused or just give up altogether. Not every single page or post within your website necessarily needs to be included on your main navigation section. So it’s a good idea to either cut down the amount of pages to just a handful of options or at least put things into categories that people can choose from within each of those main categories. You might even be able to condense multiple pages into one. For example, if you have a page about your company and a page about your team, you could make those into one general “about” page and just separate those items into different sections.

Use Labels That People Understand

Some companies get the urge to come up with cutesy page titles or phrases that might fit with their branding or the image they want to create. However, something that seems fun and clever to you might not have the same impact on those visiting your website. For example, if someone is trying to send you a message from your site, they’re probably scanning the navigation bar to look for the word “contact” or maybe “email.” So even if your company has a sort of old timey vibe and you want to make reference to that by calling the page “telegram” or “carrier pigeon,” the navigation section is not the right place for this. Instead, use the terms that you know customers or visitors are already familiar with to really streamline their use of the site. You can work your branding into other elements of each page.

Remove Unnecessary Content From Your Site

If you find it difficult to fit every single thing on your site into just a few basic categories, you might simply have too much. It’s worth going through your site to make sure that you’re only including things that have real value and relevance to your target customers or visitors. For example, if your company sells products, then the resources that your customers actually use, like a sizing chart and customer reviews, should warrant their own pages or sections in some way. However, you might not need to include extra projects like a photography portfolio or links to other projects you’re working on.

Understand Your Users and What They’re Looking For

Basically, it all comes down to providing your customers with exactly what they need and making it super easy for them to find those pieces of information. This starts with creating personas for your ideal users or customers. Who is it that’s visiting your site and what exactly are they hoping to find? Identify their likely browsing behavior and then consider what they’ll look for to find what they need. For example, if you’re a life coach who provides resources for individuals in subjects ranging from relationships to finances, then it probably makes the most sense to break down your pages by category. Someone who is looking for help from you probably has an area in mind that they want to work on, so they’re going to look for content related to that subject. It makes less sense to break it down by category – videos, blog posts, ebooks, etc. So essentially, pinpoint your exact target user and then put yourself in their shoes to create the ideal experience for them.

Take Advantage of Website Navigation Patterns

Once you know what you want to include on your website and in your navigation, it’s time to actually format it. There are plenty of different options to choose from, so it’s important to consider each one and go with the option that best fits with your particular site. For example, a utility bar is perfect for sites that mainly offer the basic pages like “about” and “contact.” Section navigation allows you to put all or most of your content on a single page and just allows visitors to jump to the different sections that are most relevant to them. There’s also footer navigation if you want to include additional options beyond the handful that you include in your primary menu at the top of the page. Or you could help people navigate your site through links in the actual text or calls to action.

2 thoughts Making Your Website Navigation Easy

  1. Thanks Ross. Actually I am finding myself also in having trouble to simplify my navigation and to remove items. Would you have some before/after-examples of some websites which really did well in simplifying their nav? Thanks, Daniel

  2. Hi Daniel,

    Thanks for your comment! I don’t have any off hand, but looking at your navigation I do have some ideas you could consider. Right now it appears that your primary navigation has a combination of several different types of themes. For example, you have “Winter” which is a category of sports available during the winter, a grouping of “sports” — specific sports like running, food which is more about the lifestyle of sports, shoes which are gear, etc…

    If you grouped these together by theme your navigation would be simpler. For example, you could have Sports | Seasons | Lifestyle | Gear – and then have dropdowns within those that contained your current primary navigation items. This way when a user looks to interact with your navigation they can first identify what top-level navigation best fits the content they’re looking for and then expose the categories within it.

    Hope this helps!

    Ross Johnson

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