The Dos and Don’ts of Navigation in Web Design

Website navigation may seem like a minor detail, but it’s actually one of the most important parts of a site. If you have bad navigation, it can cause a lot of confusion and hurt user experience.

Stick with known standards for indicating that menus are expandable, such as three horizontal lines or the hamburger icon. Avoid labeling content with formats, such as “tour” or “get started.”

Don’t Overdo It

The goal of website navigation is to guide users through your site so they can find the information they want. This allows you to convert them from a visitor to a customer. But if your navigation is overdone, it can confuse users and cause them to leave. This can damage your site’s conversion rate.

Using too many graphical elements to display navigation can also be problematic. These can be anything from a dropdown menu that appears when a user hovers the mouse over a link to a jQuery plugin that reacts to mouse movements with animations and other effects. These kinds of graphical elements can be an interesting visual addition to your navigation but they can also create confusion for your visitors. They can slow down load times, and they may cause your website to become incompatible with mobile devices.

You should also avoid including too many links in your navigation. It’s important to keep in mind that people will scan a navigation to find what they’re looking for. If you have too many options, it will make the navigation cluttered and hard to read. A good rule of thumb is to limit the number of items in your main navigation to seven.

It’s also a good idea to keep in mind the types of pages that will be most popular with your visitors and make sure those are prominently featured in your navigation. A great way to do this is to examine your Google Analytics User Flow report. This will show you the most common paths that visitors take through your website – for example, if they all start in your “upcoming styles” page, maybe it deserves prominent placement.

Don’t Overcomplicate It

Web navigation is only as effective as it is clear. When a user encounters navigation that is confusing or overwhelming, it can cause them to leave your website. In an ideal world, your website visitors breeze through your navigation and flow to the conversion points you’ve mapped out for them. Unfortunately, that’s not always how it works.

Often, web navigation is cluttered with unnecessary links or isn’t clearly labeled. While it may be tempting to include all the possible options a visitor could want, it’s more important that your navigation is clear and concise.

The best way to accomplish this is by separating different types of content into distinct navigation bars or sections. For example, a site that sells clothes and accessories might have one main navigation bar with “clothing,” while another with “footwear.” This ensures that your visitors don’t get lost or frustrated when trying to find something on your website.

A common mistake is having a different primary navigation bar on each page of your website. This confuses your visitors because they aren’t sure what navigation is relevant to them at that moment. It also makes the navigation feel disjointed and unorganized, which leads to a poor user experience.

To help you avoid this mistake, make sure your navigation is consistent and that the navigation bar has no more than seven main items. It’s also a good idea to use descriptive text for your navigation labels instead of generic terms like “products” and “services.” This will help you communicate with your users quickly and effectively. It will also help search engines rank you better, as many users searching for specific information on a business will use descriptive phrases to navigate.

Don’t Overuse Graphics

Using too many graphics in your navigation can confuse your visitors and make it difficult for them to understand where each link is taking them. Graphics should be used sparingly and only when they add value to your website navigation design.

Aim for clear, concise text labels that are consistent with the overall style of your site. Use font styles, sizes, and weights that are consistent throughout your website, just like Web Design San Diego does. This helps establish the different levels of your navigation and makes it easier for users to distinguish between them. It also keeps the design from becoming cluttered and distracting.

The number of options in your navigation should be limited to seven, maximum. This is a good rule to follow because it minimizes the amount of decision-making that your visitor will need to do. Having too many options in your navigation can overwhelm them and lead to them clicking the back button or exiting the website.

Another way to keep your website navigation design simple is to include a breadcrumb at the top or bottom of your website that lets visitors know where they are in relation to the rest of the site. This is a great option for websites that have a lot of pages or complex navigation structures.

Lastly, your website navigation should always be responsive and work well on both desktop and mobile devices. This will allow your visitors to stay on the same mental model when switching between devices and prevent them from having to learn a new one every time they visit your site.

Don’t Overuse Dropdowns

Using dropdown menus can be an effective way to organize and present many links in a small space. However, it’s important to not overuse them. Overuse can lead to confusion and frustration for visitors who are looking for something specific. Instead, try using a combination of hierarchical and local navigation to give visitors multiple options when they are searching for information.

In addition to providing a variety of navigation options, this will also help users find what they are looking for more quickly. Lastly, it’s important to keep in mind that WCAG 2.1 SC 2.4.5 states that users should be provided multiple mechanisms to navigate web pages. While this is not always possible, it’s a good idea to include multiple types of navigation on your website, including search fields, site maps, and tables of content.

If you do decide to use a dropdown menu, make sure that the label of each link is visible when it’s open. This will allow visitors to easily identify their options and understand which page they are on without having to hover or click over the link. Also, be careful about using too much animation with your dropdown links. This can cause problems with how fast your links respond to clicks and hovers and may slow down the overall user experience.

Finally, don’t include more than seven items in your dropdown menus. This will increase the amount of information that is visually presented to your visitors, which can lead to them missing key links or not clicking on the ones they need. If you must use more than seven, consider using icons as a visual cue and ensuring that text labels are paired with them for clarity.

Don’t Overuse Text

All the careful planning and thoughtful execution that goes into a website is for nothing if visitors can’t easily find their way around. The little choices you make with your navigation can have a big impact on users’ experiences. That includes click-through rates, conversions and time spent on your site.

Using too much text can be confusing, especially on mobile. The best approach is to use short titles with enough descriptive text to keep visitors informed. Avoid overusing arrows and other visual cues to draw attention, as these can distract users. Using white space effectively can also be important for maintaining clarity and focus.

Too many links can also create clutter in a navigation bar, making it difficult for visitors to scan. It’s usually best to limit the number of links in a primary navigation bar to seven or fewer.

If you have several different types of content or products, consider using sub-navigation to provide easy access to these items. This could be in the form of a dropdown menu or a list of links on a sidebar.

When designing a website, it’s important to think about how your navigation will work on both desktop and mobile. Ensure that your navigation bar adjusts based on screen size and test it for responsiveness. It’s also a good idea to remove or rename any links that are rarely clicked.

Another consideration when designing a navigation is to use words that are highly searchable and will help your visitors find what they’re looking for. For example, a menu that simply lists “Products,” “Services” and “Solutions” won’t have as high of an SEO ranking as one that uses keywords and descriptions relevant to your brand.