Website navigation is one of the most important aspects of web design. It affects how visitors find and access your content, how they interact with your brand, and how they convert into customers. A well-designed website navigation can enhance the user experience, increase the engagement, and boost the SEO ranking of your site. Or, alternatively, it can frustrate the visitors, lower the trust, and reduce the traffic and revenue of your site.
Sounds simple in theory, but people struggle to think of decision they could make that would reflect well on the website navigation. With that in mind, here are some practical tips that you can apply to your site today.
One of the common mistakes that web designers make is to cram too many links into the top-level navigation menu. Which can overwhelm the visitors and make it hard for them to find what they are looking for. It can also dilute the authority and relevance of your home page, which probably is the most important page of your site. Limiting the number of top-level navigation links, also means that you have better odds of making your menu more manageable and memorable for your visitors.
As we mentioned, one of the benefits of reducing your top-level navigation links is that you can increase the authority of your home page. The authority of a page is determined by the number and quality of links pointing to it. If your home page has 100 navigation links and 25 other links, that home page authority gets divided by 125. That means each link gets approximately 0.8% of the authority. But if you reduce your navigation links to seven and keep the other links at 25, each link gets approximately 2.9% of the authority. That is a significant difference that can improve your SEO ranking.
Choose the Order Strategically
Link placement is a pretty big deal. The order of your links can affect how much attention and clicks they get from your visitors. People, as a rule, tend to remember and click on the first and the last items in a list more than the ones in the middle. This is because of two cognitive biases: the primacy effect and the recency effect.
The primacy effect states that people tend to remember the first items in a list better than the rest because they have more time to process them. The recency effect states that people tend to remember the last items in a list better than the rest because they are still fresh in their memory.
As such, you probably should place your most important and relevant links at the beginning and at the end of your menu. E.g., if you have an e-commerce site, you might want to put your product categories at the beginning and your shopping cart or checkout at the end.
Context for Decisions
Context affects a whole lot starting from navigation to conversion. Simply put, you should give your visitors enough information and clues to help them make choices and navigate through your site. E.g., you can use descriptive labels, icons, images, tooltips, breadcrumbs, or dropdown menus to show what each link or button does and where it leads.
You should also avoid using vague or generic terms that do not convey any meaning or value to your visitors. Try to genuinely explain what this CTA, or any other such variable does. Obviously being concise is paramount.
What we mean by chaining links is that you should make sure that every page on your site has a clear purpose and a clear next step for your visitors. Do not leave them in a dead-end, if you can avoid it.
This affects engagement, which in turn affects SEO, which in turn affects basically everything. It can also improve the SEO by creating a strong internal link structure that boosts the authority and relevance of your pages.
You can use tools like Screaming Frog or Google Search Console to identify and fix any broken or missing links on your site.
Add a Comprehensive Footer
The last tip to improve your website navigation is to add a comprehensive footer. The footer is the bottom section of your site that usually contains secondary or supplementary information and links. It is often overlooked or neglected by web designers, but it can be a valuable asset for your site.
But, you should make sure that your footer is well-designed and well-organized. Include only the relevant and useful links that complement your top-level navigation menu. You should also use clear and consistent labels, icons, colors, and fonts that match your brand identity and style.