Navigation is the heart of your website. It’s what makes it run smoothly, and it’s also one of the most important factors in website design for customers, whether they realize it or not. You want your customers to have a great experience on your website, but it will be difficult to achieve that if your navigation is confusing at best. Here are a few ways you can improve your website navigation to enhance the customer experience.
Offer Separate and Distinct Categories
If your website contains multiple categories and sections, as most websites do, make sure that each category is separate and distinct. It makes it easier for the customer to find exactly what they’re looking for without scrolling through irrelevant topics first.
For example, if you look at the navigation on Amazon.com, you’ll see very distinct and specific categories that take customers exactly where they want to go without requiring them to sort through pages of extraneous search content first.
Use Accurate Titles
You also want to avoid misleading customers with inaccurate or vague titles. Your visitors want to have a general idea of where they’re going before they go there, and this rule applies to both the main links, such as the Home page, and an internal link, such as the Glossary page.
For example, check out the navigation titles on the Park West Gallery website, a leading art dealer based out of Michigan. At the top and bottom of the page they have their main links, such as Blog, Press Room, About, etc. They also have clear sections defined at the top for Artists, Art Collections, and The Park West Experience.
If you hover over each of those sections, they will take you to a list of internal links, which are aptly named, or pictured. The picture is an especially nice touch, since Park West deals with art, and it gives an accurate view of what the user can expect when they click on the link. All in all, what you see is what you get, which is why this navigation is so successful.
Make it Easy
No web visitor wants to work hard to get around your website. If it’s too difficult to navigate, they’ll simply opt for a competitor. When customers come to a physical location, they expect to see signs hanging above the aisles and other in-store navigation conventions that help them to find their way around sufficiently. It’s the same with web navigation, except with added weight, since there are no friendly store clerks your customers can ask for directions.
Because we read from top to bottom and left to right, good navigational design calls for top or left-hand navigation. Navigation on the right side is confusing and disorienting for most people. Also, consumers have come to expect the website logo to be a link to the homepage, and to see a summation of all the navigational links neatly displayed at the bottom of the page.
Improve the Search Feature
The search feature is also an incredibly important function for website navigation. We’ve all experienced poor search functions that require you to input the exact phrase, or else it yields little or no results. It’s extremely frustrating when a general keyword leads you to pages of unrelated results.
Customers prefer search functions like you see on popular websites such as Walmart.com. With just a single word or phrase, it leads you straight to the relevant results without getting caught up in other content.
Optimize for Mobile
Finally, one of the most important things for anything web design today is making it mobile friendly. With 80 percent of the world in possession of a smartphone, your website needs to be easy to access on the small screen.
Traditionally, mobile websites use a vertically oriented navigation because it’s much easier to use on a touchscreen. They’ll also use the navigation icon, a small gray box with three white lines that opens into a side navigation bar when tapped. However, those are not the only options available. There are several navigation best practices you can use for a mobile and customer friendly website.
One of the best things you can do for your customers is to improve the navigational experience. Following this update to your website, don’t be surprised if your conversion rates and internal page views spike.