Lead your visitors with clear navigation

Build your website -> Website Navigation

When we go to a Web page, our eyes instinctively look to certain spots on the screen for some clear clues about navigation. We do not expect the navigation on the website to misdirect us; we expect it to lead us.

It is important for your navigation to be located where people expect to see it - in the same place on every page of the site - and for it to work as they expect it to work. It is the same when you drive. Highway departments do not hide road signs; they put them right along the edge of the road where you expect to see them.

The importance of your navigation structure cannot be over-emphasized. Without some sort of navigation, a site loses all sense of structure and organization. There are many ways of presenting your navigation: in a bar down one side of the screen, along the top and bottom, or in a frame that stays with you throughout your visit to a site. It is important to allow access to the rest of your site from anywhere. Ideally, you should be able to go to any page in a maximum of two or three clicks, with your main pages accessible in one.

Unfortunately, we still have too much bad navigation. As an example of bad navigation, click on Burlington News. The way I see it is they could have divided their whole website into menu-based categories and sub-categories. The visitors would have a much better perspective of what it is that the website wants them to see. Maybe because it is a site about UFO and Paranormal Research and Education, no matter how much we claim to know, we still do not know much about it. Probably, that is what is reflected in their navigation. If that is the case, then the messier the website, the better.

Ask these questions
webpagesthatsuck.com advises to answer four simple questions.

How I have done it
The main purpose of website navigation must be to guide the visitor in a logical and prioritized fashion. It should help the visitor find relative information in an easier and understandable manner. Here is what you can start off with:

Take a top down approach. Divide and categorize all your topics and links. For example, I have five major topics. 1) Home 2) Create Website 3) Promote Website 4) Monetize Website and 5) Money & Investing.

They are all distinct entities. The second and third categories are more related with each other than the rest. So, when I am talking about promoting website, sometimes I link back to developing because badly designed website is hard to promote. The visitors would not stay long on your site. Imagine if all of those links were lumped into one long list. How much harder would it be to figure out where to go?

Divide and conquer
If you have more than 5 or 6 links, categorizing becomes very important. Try to find some natural groups. For example, suppose you sell widgets, and your site has this set of links: Mini Widgets  Multi-colored Widgets  Discounted Widgets  About Us  Contact Us  Company News.

Your major categories then are: Products  Company Info. When you separate the two sets of links according to those major categories, it becomes much easier to sort the available information. The simple reason is that a choice between two items is less complex than a choice between 6 items. It's the principle of dividing and conquering. 

After you have categorized all the links, now is the time to prioritize them. That means what category comes after the other. In our case, Home is the index page. Here you will find some free information to read and some info about the company on a vertical menu.

On the horizontal menu, the items are prioritized in a logical and progressive way. You develop a website and in order to share it with the world, next comes promote and then monetize website. Hopefully, when you start making money, then the last chapter talks about money & investing.

To prioritize is as important as to categorize. Hopefully, you have some idea of what you want visitors to do on your site. Your site should be designed to drive a specific action. In other words, get visitors to do a specific thing. Once you have decided what your primary goal is, your navigation should reflect it.

The links that pertain most closely to your main goals should be emphasized the most. You need to guide the visitors in the direction you want them to go. Prioritize. Ask yourself the question, "What is most important?" What do you really want to accomplish?
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