Navigation of the site is the key to success or failure of every visitor interaction and can have a huge impact on conversions, sales, and bounce rates. A well designed navigation can help users and search engines discover and engage with content, products, and services that your company offers.
It is how you can provide your users with a way to travel through your website or app, navigating from point A to point B, on the path of least resistance. It tells your users where they should go to be successful. A good rule of thumb is when the visitor lands on your website, they can find what they need within 3 clicks.
A good navigation design can reflect your brand, bring important knowledge to customers, give them confidence in your products and services, bring credibility to your company, and promote usability.
So how can you ensure your guided navigation is designed for success? In this article, we will look into some common types of website navigation, their pros and cons, and some best practices to follow when designing.
Top horizontal bar navigation is one of the two most popular kinds of site navigation menu design patterns and it’s used most frequently as the primary site navigation menu. This menu appears in the header of a site. It is perfect for placing a few primary and very descriptive products or services and calls to action.
The hamburger menu is the three lines in the corner of the screen that, once clicked on, provide a menu of more navigational options. It is used often for mobile and is quite recognizable and clean. However, they are proven to have lower click rates, making them less efficient in certain cases because users have to follow through more steps. They are also located in a less thumb-friendly location on mobile (top corner of the screen).
Breadcrumbs are a secondary level of navigation that shows your users where they are on the site and what steps they took to get there. This is especially helpful if they want to get back to a certain page or feel lost in their navigation. However, this additional text can possibly clutter your page.
These are located at the bottom of the page and include an organized list of links to all different pages across the site. What’s great about footers is since they are at the bottom of your page, you can feel free to make them as huge as possible, including a ton of information. But, the more you include, the bigger the body of text you will have, and the more users will feel intimidated to comb through and find the link they are searching for. That is why footers should not be the only navigation source on your site (especially since they are located in a more difficult-to-find place) but an additional one for resources less commonly needed.
The tab bar is most often used for mobile and is fixed to the bottom of the screen, providing a menu of a few main pages to navigate through. It is easily visible, provides a constant reminder of the current page you are on, and is thumb-friendly (easy to reach at the bottom of the screen). However, it is far more limited to the amount of navigational options and it takes up space on your screen.
This one’s usually found on the left-hand side of the screen, providing a list of navigational links at different primary, secondary, or tertiary levels. It provides a natural top-to-bottom scanning for users and each item can carry equal weight, but it can take up a lot of space on the page and all the items can’t always be seen on one screen without scrolling.
These are used to motivate your user toward a certain action. They are especially helpful in getting your customers where you want them like subscribing, checkout, or signing up for a free offer or promotion.
Dropdown's get a lot of heat. These are the boxes that open with a click and allow you to choose from a list of predetermined options. They are great for providing a large amount of content in a small space, being flexible to change with a simple design, and allowing you to collect predictable input that could be misconstrued in a search box with things like typos. However, they are not very user friendly as they can be hard to click through without a mouse, they can easily be passed over, they hide some available options if the list is too big, they can slow your users down and are not always visible to search engines (especially if powered through Flash).
Speaking of search, it can actually be used as navigation as well. It is great for leading your user directly to their desired resource, streamlining the number of steps they need to take. However, without an integrated search, not all information will be presented, and they may not find the answer they need.
The best way to create a successful navigation design is by discovering what your customers are currently doing. Find out how your audience currently navigates your site, where the highest traffic areas are, the biggest pain areas, what leads to the most and least click-throughs, and use this information to make educated choices on your improvements.
It is also important to remember that your navigation design is crucial, but not the only factor at play when it comes to customer success. Learn more about some best design practices, how to leverage color on your site, and what the top companies today are doing well with their self-service designs.
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