Help your visitors find their way
29th August 2011
The larger the website the easier it is for the visitor to become disoriented, confused or lost. The design of the navigation is therefore critical and must be well executed so that each page can be accessed without effort. Well designed navigation can have a huge impact on how the visitor perceives a website.
An intuitive navigational structure, easy to understand labels and visible, on-hand support won't leave your users fumbling around in the dark. The more your website can assist the visitor in finding their end goal the better. Our 6 top tips should go a long way to making sure your navigation is getting visitors to where they need to be.
1. Easy to find
Over-designed navigation can have a negative impact on the user as it may be dismissed as an advert. General users are habitual and conservative so standard conventions should be adhered to in order to not confuse the user. While graphical navigation can add impact to a website, it must be kept simple and easy to manage.
2. Organise links
Good navigational structure is intuitive and not too complex. The hierarchy should be ordered by importance, and categories should be arranged by topic. Important content should be easy to access, preferably as few clicks away from the homepage as possible.
3. Easy to understand labels
Wording used in the navigation labels should describe products and services on offer, but must avoid jargon as this can evoke confusion or misunderstanding. The terms used should be short and appealing to the visitor.
4. Provide a variety of navigation options
Web users have different preferences on how they like to navigate, therefore a range of navigation options should be offered. Search is also a form of navigation, and there are other defined standards like, calls to action, breadcrumbs, footer navigation and a sitemap.
5. Provide support and feedback
Just as it is important to direct the user to all available navigational options, it is also important to provide an unambiguous indication of the user's current location in the site. Visual feedback such as change in colour, icon or a bold font can achieve this. Links to help pages and contact us should be especially easy to find.
6. Meaningful URLs
Information architecture of a website should be flexible enough to allow for short and meaningful URLs. Keyword rich, hyphened URLS are easy to read and are search engine friendly. The URL should give a general idea about the content of the page without opening the page.
In the UK people spend more time online than in any other European country, averaging 33 hours per month. That's 8 hours a week, double the time spent reading newspapers and magazines."
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