What is web navigation?

Web navigation determines how easy it is for users who land on your website to find the information they’re looking for. It involves things like your website’s internal search functionality, its overall web design, and navigational links such as its main menu. In short, web navigation can be summed up as all the clickable links and features on your website that help users to flip between your web pages and navigate your content.

#1 Find out how your audience navigates your website

When you’re designing anything user-centric like a website navigation structure it’s important to consider how your audience behaves online. Your own website is no exception. Learning how visitors navigate your website can help you to develop some website navigation best practices, for example, ensuring that key pages such as a specific service page or contact page are given prominence in your site’s navigation bar so users can jump to them quickly.

#2 Put your navigation where users expect to find it

There’s one golden rule when it comes to website navigation: don’t overcomplicate it. Your site’s navigation should be as easy and effortless for people to engage with as possible, so they won’t get frustrated and go elsewhere.

The number one way to keep customers on your website (and not drive them into the arms of your competitors) is by arranging your navigation where users expect to find it. Humans are creatures of habit (impatient ones at that) so elements such as your navigation bar or header menu need to be positioned precisely where people are accustomed to seeing them.

#3 Don’t reinvent the wheel

Look, there’s a reason why website navigation menus haven’t changed over the years: users understand how they work and know how to use them, and as the old adage goes: if it ain’t broke don’t fix it.

This kind of familiarity is exactly what you need to tap into when designing your website navigation. Don’t be tempted to go off-script or compromise good user experience for the sake of design. Stick with the conventional menu items, icons, and web navigation links internet users know and love.

That said, don’t be afraid to experiment with non-navigational elements of your website such as colour. Google once attributed a $200 million increase in its profits to the fact it changed its ad links to a different shade of blue.

#4 Design your navigation for mobile and desktop

Today, the majority of people searching the internet do so by mobile so it’s never been more important to optimise your website navigation for mobile devices. Just as with desktop, stick to familiar navigation structures mobile users are used to and don’t try to reinvent the wheel.

A fairly straightforward navigation menu is key for helping mobile phone users on smaller screen devices to find the page content they need. Clickable elements such as internal links can also help to improve your site’s navigation for site visitors browsing by mobile.

#5 Integrate search into your website navigation

We’re all used to the way search engines function and the convenience they deliver in helping us to find exactly what we need. Integrating a search bar into your website’s navigation can deliver that same user experience to website visitors, allowing them to crawl your site’s content using familiar title phrases, instead of by header navigation or drop down menus.

Adding internal search functionality into your website navigation menu ensures that users who prefer to search for what they need over browsing can quickly find what they’re looking for. While by no means an innovative navigation system, this can be an especially effective tool for an ecommerce website where searching by keyword is a common practice.

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