Navigation lies at the heart of good web design.
While you need to ensure that your site looks good when people visit it, and while you want to ensure that it represents your brand well, if you want to keep people on your site then they need to know where to go next and how you want them to get there.
If navigating your site would give Columbus pause for thought, then you are going to send most of your visitors away vexed and baffled and this isn’t good for business.
As such, there are some things you need to do to ensure that your visitors know where they are going and aren’t put off by complicated navigation.
Here we will look at some things to avoid, and some things to include to make your navigation simple and easy.
Site maps are definitely a navigation ‘do’. These act as a great ‘last ditch attempt’ for people who can’t find what they want on your site. If all else is lost, then they can always visit your site maps and use them to get to the page they want.
At the same time site maps are also great for SEO. Once Google has indexed your site map, it will have found a page that has links to everything else on your site and it will be able to quickly spider your entire website. Good news.
Drop Down Menus
I’m going to put drop down menus into the ‘don’ts’ category. While these can sometimes provide a useful way for people to get around your site if you have an awful lot of content to categorise, they also have several disadvantages.
For one they aren’t particularly SEO friendly, and at the same time they can also be fiddly and awkward for a number of devices – particularly if they don’t support Java. Normally there is a way to present all of your links in a way that doesn’t require a drop down menu.
Having too much clutter on your front page and your navigation pages is a big no no and will end up leaving your visitors confused and with their attention divided.
What you need to do instead is to make your site more focussed and more linear. So ask yourself – when someone comes to your site, what is the first thing you want them to do? Sign up to the mailing list perhaps?
Then make this as easy as possible for them to do and avoid other distractions.
Tricks are another no no. By tricks I mean basically things like AdSense where you expect the navigation menus to be which gets you more clicks, but annoys all your visitors. This is unprofessional and will damage your reputation.
A what’s new section is something that belongs on your home page to allow returning visitors to quickly see what’s new on your site.
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A great way to retain your traffic is to suggest other similar articles to the ones they are reading, and particularly at the bottom of the pages they’re on.
And include images that catch the eye as well and you can turn surfing your site into something compulsive and hard to stop. Think about what it is that keeps you glued to YouTube when you should be working and go with that.
Photo credit: marc falardeau