There is little that irritates me more than not being able to find something. The other day I misplaced my favourite gym t-shirt. It still hasn’t turned up but I haven’t got the energy to empty every cupboard and drawer in my bedroom to find it. It’s much the same when I’m looking for something on the internet and I can’t immediately see where it is on the website I’m visiting. I won’t bother hanging around searching high and low, I’ll just give up and go elsewhere.
The website must make it easy for me to find what I want
A recent survey carried out by HubSpot showed that 76% of survey respondents said that the most important element in website design is ease in finding information. Therefore, the biggest factor to keep visitors on your website is having a good, solid navigation system that supports all search preferences. If they can’t find exactly what they are looking for (often in less than 3 clicks), they will give up and leave.
So, what precisely should your website’s navigation include?
Image: Flickr/Georgie Pauwels/Just do not lose orientation/CC BY 2.0
Top Tips for Effective Website Navigation
- Keep the structure of your primary navigation simple and near the top of the page: This will typically include ‘About us’, ‘Contact Us’, ‘Products/Services’.
- If your site is reasonably complex, use breadcrumbs on every page (except the homepage) so people are aware of their navigation trail.
- Include a search box near the top of your site so visitors can search by keywords easily.
- Don’t offer too many navigation options on a page.
- Don’t dig too deep – in most cases it’s best to keep your navigation to no more than three levels deep.
- Include links within your page copy and make it clear where those links go to. This is also great for SEO.
- Make your website mobile-friendly. There's nothing more frustrating than trying to navigate a desktop website on the small screen of a smartphone... most people will just give up.
The overriding rule for creating websites that are easy to navigate is simple – make sure visitors don't have to think about how to get to the information they seek. Anticipate their interests and needs and make it easy for them.
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