How to improve your site navigation
Even with great content, if visitors can’t find what they’re looking for, they’ll just leave. Make sure it’s easy to navigate your site: here’s how you can improve your site navigation.
Improve your site navigation: Planning
Planning is one of the most important steps in any web design process. You should be planning out your content and your navigation before you create the visuals. Plan how you want your visitors to get from A to B on your website. Make sure they can get there as quickly as possible. Your most important content should be easy to access.
Your navigation needs to be consistent throughout your site. This means keeping your main navigation areas in the same place and ensuring that you use the same colors for links across the site. Your main menu should appear in the same place on every page, although you should feel free to have page specific sub-menus for drilling down into different content.
Consistent navigation – in both how and where it appears on your site – promotes ease of use and increases your visitors’ ability to find relevant information more quickly. If your navigation is constantly changing from page to page (except where absolutely necessary), visitors lose their on-site sense of direction and must reorient themselves constantly.
Let people know where they are in your site
Breadcrumbs are those little links at the top of a page, usually below the main navigation bar, that show where you have been and where you are now. They make it easier for a visitor to figure out where they are at that moment, and how they got there. They take the form of Home > Sub-Page > Sub-Page. They’re really only necessary if you have a lot of pages and subpages. Stick to 5 top-level items at most. If you only have top-level navigation items, there’s no need to add breadcrumb navigation. But when you do have lots and lots of pages and subpages, adding breadcrumbs will do a lot to improve your site navigation.
Use words your visitors would use. If you’re using icons, make sure to also have text with it. It’s words that really makes us humans understand what to do, will clicking this one get me the information I want, or should I click the next one? Using actual text also helps make your site more easily indexed. Visitors should have a general idea of what they should find on a page even before clicking any navigational link. Stick with things like Services, Products, Projects, About Us, Contact, etc. Don’t try to be too cool.
Also make your URLs readable by humans, it makes it easier to remember and helps with SEO. Use WordPress’ permalinks settings.
People have gotten used to looking for certain elements in certain places. Logos are usually in the top-left of pages, or centered at the top. It’s often linked to the homepage. People browsing the web have come to expect this so you should make your logo clickable.
It may be a bit boring to stick to such conventions, but it will help your visitors a lot in getting to where they want to be.
The One Exception: Sales Pages
Whatever the reason, you don’t really want to distract people with lots of other information. Sales or landing pages work as they help to focus the reader on what you want them to do (i.e. buy your product). On these specific pages, you don’t really need social media links, or subscribe boxes as you would rather they buy your product. You can even leave out your entire main navigation.
Still, you should have at least one visible link back to your main site. They may have gotten to your sales page from someone else’s social media post and not really know who you are and want to take a peek at the rest of your site first.
Add links between blog posts. Besides adding links to related, older blog posts when you post something new, go through older blog posts to add links to your newer content. A new visitor may first come across an old blog post of yours and be interested in reading more, but they might not want to go through the haggle of actually searching through your blog post. Adding links between blog posts increases the chances of a visitor viewing more than just one page or post on your site, and it might well turn them into regular readers.
Set external links to open in a new window. You don’t want to lead people off your site, you want to keep them around to show them all the awesome content you have and the great things you can do for them, so that they’ll sign up for your newsletter, buy something from you or do whatever else you want them to do.
You can add target=”_blank” to your links, or just tick the box to open links in a new window.
If you’re serious about improving your site navigation, you need to test your navigation to make sure that it is actually a useful navigational tool. Don’t just test it yourself. Ask your friends and family, people unfamiliar with the site to test it for you. That pair of fresh eyes will help to pick up on any problems and inconsistencies.
Give them tasks like ‘If you want to [buy this product from me/book a call with me/sign up for my newsletter], how would you go about it?’. Then, sit back and just watch. Don’t tell them what to do, just give them the task and watch what they do. It can be really interesting and educational to see them struggle with things that seem so very obvious to you, and if they do struggle, ask them how you could make things easier. They might give you great ideas for improvements!
So a visitor has been able to find the information they were looking for on your site, but then what? You should give specific directions for further actions if you want your website to serve some purpose. Did you add a Call to Action on every page?