Website Navigation: Make it Easy for People to Explore Your Site

Sticks Downey NavigationWebsite navigation is clearly one of the most integral parts of your site’s overall experience. If users can’t figure out where to go, or if they can’t quickly find what they’re looking for, they’re bound to grow frustrated and move on.

We’ve said this before, and it’s becoming more true by the day: people’s attention spans are waning, and you need to make it easy for them to move around your site, lest you risk them throwing their hands in the air, clicking out of there, and vowing to never come back.

This isn’t to say you can’t have some fun with your website’s navigation, but keep in mind that a band like Radiohead can take some major liberties with the navigation on their site (http://radiohead.com/) because, well, they’re Radiohead. There probably aren’t a lot of people heading to their site and scanning for an “About” link in hopes to “find out what these guys are all about.”

If you’re a well-established act or a famous author, maybe you can take some liberties, too. But for most of us, our site is a way to make new fans and establish connections (among many other things), so making it simple for people to find their way around is bound to better your chances there.

Here are some quick tips to keep your site’s nav in order:

1. Use common names for your website navigation links. 

You know, the stuff you’re used to seeing on websites: “About,” “Contact,” “Pics,” “Store,” etc. People are used to looking for these things, and if they’ve arrived at your site with a mission in mind, making these paths clear will help them complete it.

2. Don’t go nuts with your website’s navigation.

Giving people plenty of options as to where to go is good, but giving them too many choices might be overwhelming. Pick what you think are the most important categories your site can be cleanly divided into, and stick with those. There are other ways to refine your navigation, like using…

3. Drop-down menus. 

Drop-down menus allow you to stack sub-categories underneath a main header. On my site, I combined my “Listen” and “Lyrics” sections into one main nav item, and then I have options for my different albums as a drop-down menu under that button. Simplifies things a bit, and saves space in my navigation menu.

4. Keep it clean. 

Drop-down menus can help reduce clutter and offer a very clean and concise way to get around your site. Conversely, if you use too many, it can look messy and/or overwhelm your less tech-savvy visitors. So try your best to keep it simple and intuitive.

5. Step outside your site and imagine you’re a first-time visitor. 

Your site may seem simple to navigate to you, but keep this in mind: you’re the one who designed it. Or, even if you’re not, you’re at least probably very familiar with how it functions. Try and step back and view it through the eyes of someone who’s never seen it before, and test its intuitiveness. Better yet, have a friend who’s never visited your site (some friend, right?) take a look, and then report back to you with anything they found confusing, misleading, or messy. Then you can adjust your site accordingly.

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Are you proud of your site’s navigation? Share the URL with us in the comments, or offer up any other tips you have!

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