Your website’s navigation menu is one of the most critical components of your website design. You want to create an architecture that is simple for your website visitors to navigate and find what they are looking for. For search engines, your website navigation explains the relationship between all your unique pages and provides context for the destination pages.
Below are some best practices to keep in mind when you are building a new site, redesigning your current website and/or as part of your ongoing website analytics efforts. Do not be afraid to change things based on your evaluation and analysis!
1. Limit Your Primary Website Navigation to No More Than 7 Items.
Be concise. Less than 7 if possible – particularly when you consider how your site renders on mobile devices. Mine your analytics tools to home in on – not only your most visited pages – but also what search terms bring visitors to those pages. Are there search terms your users employ that are more common than how you may describe your products and services? Consider moving certain standard things like “About Us” and “Contact Us” to your secondary navigation.
2. Use Descriptive Labels
A new visitor to your website may have no idea what type of products you sell if one of your primary navigation labels just reads, “Store” or “Products”. Be descriptive. If you primarily sell industrial equipment, use that term rather than the generic term “products”. Remember using descriptive terms not only provides your website visitor will a better sense of what you sell/promote/do but they also serve as link anchor text that lives on every page of your website – indicating authority.
3. Carefully Consider What You Place First and Last in Your Menu
It may seem obvious but the items we place at the beginning of our navigation menu will represent to the visitor the items of greatest importance to your business. The item at the end of the navigation menu is the one the visitor is most likely to remember because it will be the one the last one he/she reads. Bear in mind these two considerations when selecting the location of your primary menu items.
4. Make Items In Your Website Navigation Obviously Clickable
One of the long-standing best practices in website design and UX (user experience) is making link obvious to the user. Most commonly, an action occurs when the user rolls over or “mouses over” a navigation item indicating the item is clickable. In countless usability tests I’ve been a part of over the years, it still surprises me how many people won’t assume a link is a link (and actually click on an item) unless an action is triggered upon the mouse over. Don’t assume your visitors will click everything they see or that they will intuitively know what is a link and what isn’t.
Read this article for a deeper dive into Using Google Analytics to Understand Navigation Paths. And remember, we at 3 Aspens Media are happy to evaluate your website’s performance.