Think of a website’s navigation menu as a road map to your website. These tabs, frequently found at the top and sometimes at the side of the webpage help to make a website accessible by directing the user through the website’s terrain. Made up of a list of categories, the navigation menu is key to introducing the visitor to the website content.
As a central feature in the visitor’s experience of the site and providing a cohesive platform for the website’s content, we take a look at 5 strategies to increase ease of website navigation.
1 – Keep it simple
When it comes to accessing information, ease and speed is the key. Your visitor must be able to access information and find a solution to a challenge or question as efficient as possible. This can be achieved with a simple and clean look which is easy to read, understand and use, facilitating the visitor’s intuitive understanding of the website and its contents.
Any additions to the menu such as drop downs can be communicated through clear visual cues such as a down facing arrow or a ‘V’ on the parent or main tab of the category.
2 – Know your audience
The degree of keeping it simple depends on your audience. If your audience is more tech savvy, then your options of dealing with your navigation menu are more flexible. This audience is likely to relate well to the 3 horizontal lines or hamburger menu with a globally hidden menu. While this trend works on the small screen of a mobile device, the hamburger menu may be less visible on desktop and therefore less effective.
This plays out in the results of user interaction with sites which have the hamburger navigation. According to Nielsen “discoverability is cut almost in half by hiding a website’s main navigation. Also, task time is longer and perceived task difficulty increases when it comes to hiding the navigation menu.”
While the number of users accessing the internet via mobile devices is increasing, both desktop and mobile need to be considered in the design of your navigation tabs.
Desktop favours navigation tabs at the top or left-side of the page. As space is limited on mobile screen, if your website has four or less menu tabs, these can be visible in the navigation plane. A hamburger menu can be used as a solution to accommodate a menu with five or more tabs.
3 – Optimising Site User Experience (UX)
Navigation tab names serve to guide the reader, both in terms of where to go on the site and in terms of what information is available. For these reasons, it is best to stick to name conventions for navigation tabs, using descriptions with which people are familiar. So, for example if you create an ‘About page’ or “Get to know us Page” – use these descriptive titles, rather than an obscure non-descriptive title such as ‘Hi there’.
Additionally, a visitor landing on your website will read your menu tabs in order to get an idea of your site and content. This menu needs to be repeated in the same format throughout the site to facilitate clarity and efficiency in navigating the site.
Depending on the sophistication of your visitor, you can choose between a static vs dynamic menu. While the static menu tabs remain in the same order throughout the site and throughout the user’s usage, the dynamic menu changes, adapting the order according to the visitor’s behaviour.
4 – Navigation trends
As the trend in accessing websites via mobiles increases people are becoming familiar with ‘thumbing’ through a website as opposed to ‘clicking’ through a website on desktop. This has given rise to a nifty solution of sticky navigation where the navigation menu ‘sticks’ to the top of the browser as the mobile user continues to scroll down the web page.
This simplifies the navigation experience, making it easy for the visitor to access any of the navigation tabs and visit other pages on the website, rather than having to scroll to the top of the page to access the menu.
Another trend in both mobile and desktop is seen in the use of symbols such as the upward arrow n the side of the page which takes the user back to the top of the webpage. Other trends using a symbol include the < and > on either side of the side bars, indicating a carousel thumbing or scrolling option across the page.
As with all online experiences, the emphasis is on the user experience with the aim of making this experience simple, easy and enjoyable. This facilitates additional engagement with the site, moving the visitor further along the sales funnel. As web access via mobile phones continues to increase, it will be interesting to see new developments and opportunities created both by the device and by developers, mutually impacting on one another to create a more efficient and refined cyber experience for the user.