Website navigation is important in any web design process. It allows your visitors to find pages on your websites without spending hours trying to decipher internal links or search for the fine print. So, if you want browsing your website to be simple and intuitive for your visitors, implementing some best practices will help. Here, we’ll discuss why website navigation is important and then dive into the best practices that can boost user engagement and drive conversions.

What is Website Navigation?

Website navigation refers to how a visitor on your website moves from one page to another. It’s an element of web design that provides visitors with a roadmap of your site’s navigation menu. Good website navigation design can make it simple for people to find the pages on a website that they’re looking for, which can ultimately drive user experience and conversions.

What Makes a Good Website Navigation?

Website navigation is an essential part of organizing the information on your website. Without it, your site’s navigation would provide visitors with no information on how to access the information they need. Effective navigation menus can:

Website Navigation Best Practices

Website navigation is an essential part of organizing the information on

Enhance user experience

Impact organic traffic

Boost lead generation

Driver conversion rates

Improve brand perception

Strengthen accessibility

Positively impact search engine optimization (SEO)

Different Types of Website Navigation

There are a few common types of website navigation used today. However, only one of four primary types of website navigation bars need to be implemented on your homepage. The type you choose will determine the navigation structure of your site, which will dictate how your website visitor gets from page to page. Some navigation examples include:

  1. Horizontal Navigation Bars — this is a more traditional type of navigation design where all your primary pages are listed at the top of the page. They tend to include a search bar as a menu item for easier access to specific keywords.
  2. Dropdown Navigation Menus — when sites need several different navigation links, a dropdown menu is ideal. This allows visitors to hover over the main navigation pages (i.e., products) to reveal additional navigation items on several other pages.
  3. Vertical Sidebar Navigation Menus — although less common, these are becoming increasingly popular in website design as they allow for unique benefits based on industry. Here, the pages on your site appear to the left or right of your home page, allowing you to include more items in the navigation itself.
  4. Hamburger Navigation Menu — a hamburger menu is ideal for mobile devices, as it makes it much easier to search for what you’re looking for without leaving the home page. The visitor will click on an icon with three lines or dots, revealing the primary navigation as a whole page. This website navigation structure makes it easier to see what you’re looking for on smaller screens.

Ideally, footer navigation menus on their own should be avoided, as this makes it frustrating for your visitors to get from one page to another. However, you can include additional information for less-visited pages (i.e., links to important pages, legal pages, or contact pages) in a footer menu to provide easily accessible links to pages that not every visitor may be looking for. Regardless, a good navigation structure should always be visible and make site navigation as easy as possible.

Best Practices for Website Navigation Design

Website navigation is essential if you want to create a well-organized site that enhances user engagement and drives conversions. Here are some best practices that will help visitors navigate your website with ease.

1. Make Your Website Homepage Simple

A simple and uncluttered homepage is key to a good user experience. It allows visitors to arrive at your website and find the primary reason they clicked the URL in the first place. So, make a website with a homepage that provides a clear overview of what you do. Then, using your navigation, direct them to the most important sections. Website navigation is key in not overwhelming visitors with too much content or distractions from the core message.

Website Navigation Sitemap

2. Start with a Site Map to Determine the Complexity of the Website

If you don’t know what to include in your main navigation menu, begin by creating a sitemap that outlines the structure of your website. This helps you understand the hierarchy of pages and how they interconnect, so you can better understand how to navigate through your website the most efficiently. A well-organized sitemap can reveal areas where navigation can be streamlined and simplified.

3. Consider the Order for the Structure of a Website

The order in which you present information on your website navigation also matters. Arrange your navigation items logically to align with how users will navigate your site. For instance, you might place the most important or frequently accessed pages near the top or beginning of the navigation to influence more page visits. Use your main navigation as a way to help communicate the goal of your website to visitors.

4. Design Your Navigation with Descriptive, User-Friendly Labels

Clear and concise labels for your navigation are crucial. Avoid jargon or vague terminology that might confuse visitors. Use labels that directly reflect the content of the pages, making it easy for users to understand where each link will lead.

5. Use Simplicity to Structure Your Website Navigation

Simplicity in design not only applies to the pages themselves but also extends to the entire website. Keep the navigation structure straightforward and intuitive. Complex and convoluted menus can overwhelm users, leading to frustration and high bounce rates. You want your website to be easy to understand, not some puzzle that forces visitors through a series of trial-and-error.

6. Opt for Mega Menu Dropdowns Instead of Mini Dropdowns

Mega Menu Example

Example of a Mega Menu

If your website has several different categories or sub-pages, consider using mega menu dropdowns. These provide a more extensive and informative preview of the available content, making it easier for visitors to explore and find what they need. However, if you don’t have an extensive number of sub-pages, mini dropdown menus can make it more frustrating to move around your website.

7. Optimize Your Navigation with a CTA

Incorporate strategically placed call-to-action (CTA) buttons within your navigation. These CTAs can guide visitors toward specific actions, such as signing up for a newsletter, making a purchase, or contacting your business, thus enhancing your website’s conversion potential.

8. Keep Social Icons at the Bottom of Your Website

While social media icons are essential for connecting with your audience, it’s best to place them at the bottom of your website. This prevents them from distracting users from your main content and ensures they don’t overshadow your core message.

9. Test How Website Navigation Affects Mobile Responsiveness

People still need to navigate a website on their phones, which is why mobile responsiveness is vital. Test your website’s navigation on various mobile devices to ensure it remains user-friendly. Implement responsive design elements and consider whether a hamburger menu or other mobile-specific navigation features are necessary.

10. Analyze How You Design Your Website Navigation and Amend

Finally, take the time to regularly analyze the effectiveness of your website navigation menu. Utilize tools like Google Analytics to track user behavior, identify potential bottlenecks, and make data-driven improvements to your navigation design.

To help you create effective website navigation, partner with Operation Technology. As a full-service digital marketing and web design agency, our team of web developers knows how to create affordable solutions tailored to your needs. Contact us today to learn more about our website development services or schedule a free consultation.

About the Author: Bill Dolan

Bill is an award winning designer with more than 25 years in graphic and professional Wordpress website design. He has experience in almost every area of creating art from his early days as a keyline paste-up artist to POS design to GRAMMY nominated album art.