Website navigation tips: are you in a pickle with yours?
Updated: January 24, 2019
To help your visitors navigate their way towards the prize with minimal instruction, your website’s navigation should be enticing, effortless and intuitive. I’ve brought together a few of our best website navigation tips. Start by imagining an aloof cat, roaming around without purpose or agenda. Now imagine your website navigation is a laser pen. This is your mission.
Here are 4 main areas to consider:
- Your menu
- Calls to action
- Blog categories and tags
- Your contact information
Your menu should be in an accessible and obvious location, and streamlined so as not to overwhelm the user with choices. The general consensus is that a menu with more than seven items is crowded.
Ask yourself, are the pages important enough to constitute a spot on the menu or could they be merged, so that you have less pages for visitors to click through? You want visitors to work their way through the site with the least clicks possible, otherwise they will just get bored and bounce.
Imagine your audience is a cat, and your website navigation is a laser pen. This is your mission.
Drop-down menus are an effective way to simplify your menu options, but don’t go overboard as they can be overcomplicated and tedious for the average user.
Lay out your menu in order of desired navigation. People tend to be drawn to the first and last options, so I’d recommend you make the last one ‘Contact’.
Call your pages ‘About’ and ‘Blog’! Avoid long, fancy or mysterious page names in your menu, or nondescript phrases or words like ‘resources’. The more specific your names are, the better they are for SEO and navigation ease. Be predictable, consistent and concise.
Calls to action
Noticeable but not intrusive, calls to action like ‘get in touch’ or ‘see examples’ are vital to efficient and enticing navigation. The aim is to encourage your visitor to go from just browsing to “I want to work with/buy from these guys.” You should have at least one on every page, but don’t go overboard – you want to guide people from one page to the next, holding their hand until they reach the point of conversion. Each page should be primarily focussed on just one or two CTAs. Do you want people to fill out a form, buy something or give you a call? Choose CTAs that drive visitors towards your goal, using contrasting colours and wording that make it obvious where they lead. Don’t be too subtle or mysterious with your CTA wording – nor should you be too pushy, as that will put some people off.
Blog categories and tags
Logical categories and tags help your readers to navigate their way around your blog.
- Categories group your posts into primary topics like Green tea, Black Tea, Herbal tea. Think of them like your blog’s table of contents.
- Subcategories group topics within a primary topic. The category ‘Black Tea’ could have subcategories like Assam, Darjeeling, Earl Grey.
- Tags group specific details, like detox, digestion, calming. Think of tags like your blog’s index.
The complexity of your blog will determine the appropriate number of categories. The more it evolves, the more vital your category structure will become to its usability.
Stick with between 3 and 10 primary categories. Too many breeds a lack of focus which is confusing for both humans and bots (aka search engines). The more categories you have, the less posts there are in each – fewer categories ensures their content stays fresh.
Poor site navigation is like playing Lemmings, bumbling about and hitting dead ends before bouncing.
If you find you often add posts to multiple categories, you should consider creating a parent category that encompasses the most common culprits, demoting them to subcategories. This is an integral part of your blog’s growth, so it is important that you stay on top of it. Efficient post organisation is key to effective navigation.
Blog posts are categorised by default. If you don’t assign a category it will be placed in the ‘uncategorised’ category, which doesn’t make the best impression.
It’s easy to let tags run away with you. At first, you’ll find yourself adding a handful of tags with every post you write, so it’s important that you make a point of reviewing and refining them regularly. Remember, ease of use is key – don’t overwhelm your visitors.
Use the option to ‘choose from the most used tags’ to avoid close equivalents or misspelt duplicates.
A tag that duplicates a category will confuse people (and Google), so make sure you stick with the formula:
- Category = primary topic
- Subcategories = topics within a topic
- Tags = specific details
Your categories and tags should be designed first and foremost with usability in mind, but also relate to targeted SEO keywords. You can add category and tag descriptions too, which help to optimise your blog. I’ll cover this in my ‘Blog Posts Optimisation’ post.
Your Contact Info
The single most important thing! Often people just want to contact you, so make it ridiculously easy for them, from wherever they are on the site. Have a clear phone number and contact form as well as an email address, as not everyone appreciates a contact form.
You can track the way in which your visitors navigate your site for free using Smartlook, which is well worth doing to help you spot any sticking points in your website’s navigation.
The path you create from landing page to conversion is fundamental to your website’s success. Get your site navigation wrong and you’ll have a game of Lemmings on your hands – people ambling around and bumping into dead ends, before bouncing.
To break down all this information, I have condensed my suggestions into an actionable checklist below. Do you have any website navigation tips or tricks I hadn’t considered? I’d love to learn more.
Actionable Checklist – Website Navigation Tips
- Is your menu in an accessible and obvious location?
- Does your menu have seven items or less?
- Could any of your pages be merged?
- Are your dropdown menus too complicated?
- Is your menu in order of desired navigation?
- Are your page names specific and concise?
- Is each page primarily focussed on just one or two CTAs?
- Do your CTAs use contrasting colours and clear wording?
- On your blog, do you have between 3 and 10 primary categories?
- Are ALL your posts categorised?
- Get rid of any misspelt duplicate tags or close equivalents.
- Get rid of any tag that duplicates a category.
- Is it ridiculously easy for visitors to contact you from any page?
- Do you have your email address displayed as well as a contact form?
- Use Smartlook to track the way visitors navigate your site.