Web Design

Navigation TipsThe most important part of each and every website is its navigation menu. This is the main way that your visitors will navigate your website, so making sure it’s easy to use  is critically important.

In this post I will present you with some Golden Tips for a great navigation menu that will help you improve your website’s usability.

1: Have no more than seven menu items.

Having a huge amount of menu items will only cause confusion to your visitors who will need to spend more time reading all the options available for them to click.

People like to move fast while on the web. If they are presented with a navigation menu with ten or more options, it means that they will have to read them all first to be sure that they click the one they are looking for.

Even having eight items is too many in terms of what your users can process with a fast scan of the page. If you can trim seven down to six or five, even better.

2: Use descriptive titles in your navigation menu

Small changes can make your menu look more natural and easy to understand. For example, a menu item “Team” can be changed to “Meet Our Team”, so the user knows what to expect when they visit this page.

This is not just helpful for the users. With the more descriptive menu items, Google and the other search engines can better understand your page and what to expect as they crawl through the website reading its content.

3: Never go more than three levels deep.

One of the most basic rules of usability design is to have all the information available within three clicks away from the homepage.

If you bury a piece of information under piles and piles of pages, not only you make it difficult to find, but your visitors are unlikely to dig deeper than three clicks to reach it.

4: Your brand logo should always navigate to the home page.

A very common mistake is to have the logo exist merely as an image on the homepage. Visitors generally expect to be taken back to the homepage when they click on a company logo.

If clicking on the logo causes nothing to happen,  your visitors might wonder what to do next. This might make them reluctant to explore deeper pages on your site.

5: Avoid Dropdown Menus

Dropdown menus can be a grey area in any navigation menu. Hiding navigation items in a drop down menu means that the user will have to move their mouse over the main navigation item to see the rest of the list. But what happens if the user does not move their mouse over that item?

Avoiding dropdown menus while keeping the main navigation items under seven can be a challenge. If you have so many pages that a drop down menu is unavoidable, try and make it big, clear and easy to navigate, like the one below:

Dropdown Menu Example

With this menu the user can clearly see all available options and does not have the common problem of  the menu disappearing when the mouse is moved away.

Of course, this advice only scratch the surface of the usability and UX (user experience) issues that are under the navigation menu design process. But I hope that they will give you a good perspective around the general best practices of navigation menus.

The next time you visit a website, take a moment to think: Does the navigation of that website impacts your view of the website and the brand it represents?

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