The other day I decided to make a quick run to my favorite arts and crafts store to purchase new canvas for my next painting project. As I entered, I was overwhelmed by trying to find the correct aisle. It took me 10 minutes just to find the right area for the paint supplies, and the aisles were a confusing mess of options.
I hope your next visit to the store is nothing like this small “nightmare” I experienced; however, this is a perfect metaphor of how confusing website navigation can be. A visitor lands on your site and tries to locate information, and because the navigation menu is poorly presented, they become frustrated in the process and/or immediately leave. See, it’s all about the end user’s expectations and experience.
We have been through several design competitions, winning well over 350 design awards, and to know a thing or two about strategic Web design, and we want to pass along some tidbits of advice so visitors don’t shun you site for lack of navigation clarity.
1. Keep it simple.
Don’t use words in your navigation that are technical jargon or inside jokes and will confuse the visitor. Don’t make the user have to guess which menu tab to use. If you’re going to deviate from the norm, make sure it’s obvious what a user can expect to find in each portion of your site.
2. Make sure every menu tab is clickable.
If you have an “About” navigation tab with a drop down menu of “History” and “Contact”, the visitor can click on “About” and still get information, if they desire. Users expect all items to be clickable if they are included in your navigation menu.
3. Use your logo as a clickable home page.
It is good for the user to be able to click on the logo to find the “Home” page. If you do this, it doesn’t necessarily mean you have to omit an actual “Home” tab from the navigation area, but it provides another way for the user to easily navigate your site.
4. Include a search bar feature if you have a large site.
This really comes in handy when you have a lot of downloadable documents for users to access (volunteer applications, brochures, etc.). Plus, it is available to users if they are having difficulties navigating the site.
These are just a few basic tips and can be applied to responsive Web design as well. The general practice is use common sense. If you can’t find it, your visitor can’t find it.
Avoid turning your next Web project into a navigation nightmare. Carefully consider your plan and find a team who understands the importance of clear Web navigation strategy.