How to Improve Website Navigation Using These 12 Tips

Agata Rączewska

May 14, 2020 • 13 min read

Website navigation is the most important feature of the overall user experience. It can make or break your chances of conversion.

Having a good site navigation system in place is critical to the effect your website will have on visitors and whether they will stay on the site to explore other pages or bounce. Navigation is key to the good performance of a site but it also affects many other things – e.g. retaining visitors and turning them into conversions.

Unfortunately, many website owners do not recognise the importance of navigation. Most of them focus on website designs and multimedia, dedicating very little attention to creating a site that is easy to use, and even well-designed sites can expect to lose around 55% of visitors. What they are left with is a site where people need to ‘hunt’ for content to find what they need – this is never good news.

The cleanest web designs are built on good navigation that supports the business priorities while offering your users a streamlined experience at the same time. In addition, the mobile side of the experience is just as important, as mobile is often the key point of contact at which users make their first interaction with the online presence of a business.

If you want to stop pushing visitors away, it's time you improved your website’s navigation. We will show you how to do it with website navigation ideas that will provide the inspiration you need.

Website navigation and user experience

Why is website navigation important?

Easy website navigation is crucial for leading a visitor through a buyer journey. Too many categories can be very time-consuming and cause some serious indecision. This could easily cost you a conversion, because as soon as your visitor feels confused, they are more likely to leave. In fact, studies show that 94% of visitors would leave just based on the design of a website.

The navigation UX can be directly responsible for helping users find what they need or making them abandon the site altogether. Website navigation design best practices can prevent your site from the common pitfalls that can lead to poor results. The following website navigation example illustrates this.

website navigation good and bad example

Just as with app navigation design, it’s best to offer an easy-to-use scheme with a clear direction. The levels of website navigation should not branch out into a tree that will get people lost.

Website navigation on mobile devices

Mobile website navigation is critical to building a good user experience. When a user is browsing a site using a smartphone, their experience should be equally fluid and simple as when they are accessing a website via desktop.

Consider how to make the best use of the space on the device and how the content decisions can make the best impact on the goals of the business.

Best practices also involve making headings that are clear and make sense to the user and making sure that all elements are simple to find. Now let’s talk about the details.

Methods of improving website navigation

1. Split categories

Your website’s navigation system probably has several categories, sections and subsections. These should be given good, SEO-friendly titles, but that's not enough. Your categories should also be clearly presented on the site, and also visibly separated from sub-categories.

how to split categories visualisation

2. Limit the number of menu selections

In most cases, the recommended number of menu selections is no more than 7 or 8. People do not have a lot of time to spend on your site, and they will appreciate it if you organise your content into several categories in the navigation menu.

When considering menu design ideas, opt for what will provide a clean and easy navigation for the user so that there’s minimal friction in the experience. Navigation icons are a quick and straightforward way for the user to find what they need. Think about how this will all flow when creating your website’s navigation map.

3. Create various clickable links

Every navigation element on your site needs to be a clickable link. Don’t forget about drop-down menus – visitors can click on a sub-category to see if there is more information or a page about the topic. If you have listed such a callout, make sure that you create clickable links wherever possible. However, drop-downs are not a very mobile- or touch-friendly solution so keeping a balance here is also important.

clickable links on a website

See also: Make Decisions, Not Guesses – How Web Data Analytics Can Drive Your Digital Product Development

4. Keep it organised in a way your users expect

You shouldn’t see navigation as an opportunity to place links to everything, no matter what it might be. Be mindful of how your navigation appears on the site and whether it makes it easier or harder for the visitor to find pages. If your navigation strategy is losing visitors from page to page and they constantly have to reorient themselves to find something, you might want to rethink this strategy.

how to organize navigation

5. Remove misleading navigation titles and text

Look out for inaccurate navigation titles and links that could confuse the visitor or annoy them. This is a popular reason for site abandonment. Visitors should have true information about what they will find if they click on a navigational link and misleading them is never good for user experience. Ensure that all language is an accurate portrayal of the page it corresponds to, which also applies to images.

The intent may not be malicious — being vague or unclear could be enough for a user to frustrate out of the process.

how to organize navigation visualisation

6. Include ALT text in images

If you have decided to make an image clickable be sure to include an ALT attribute with text that corresponds to the linked page. This way everyone will know that the photo is a link and where that link takes them. This also helps visually impaired people use the navigation. There is also some SEO benefit to this practice.

how to include alt texts

7. Make ture that the search feature is easy to find

A website’s search box is probably the most frequently used area and is therefore a very important component of user experience. This is the key you give to your users to provide them with easy access to the information they need. Ideally, place the search box at the top of the sidebar or in the header area.

search feature on a website

8. Ensure that the search box works

It's not enough to make the search easy to find – it needs to work. The search result page of your site should always produce quality results, accommodate typos, and show related products and items. Google offers a programmable search engine to add a custom search to your site. A search result that returns a ‘no product found’ notification is no longer a well-accepted strategy!

search box on a website

9. Include links to the homepage

Visitors may want to return to the homepage after checking other pages. The homepage is usually the place visitors return to after exploring certain sections of your site – it acts as a base camp for their journey. Keep this in mind when creating your website’s navigation structure.

Never force visitors to use the 'back' button on a browser to go to your home page. Your site should provide a link to the homepage on all pages – usually through the company’s logo.

how to locate a link to the homepage

10. Make good use of colors

Colors can make all the difference when it comes to differentiating one thing from another on a site.
Streamline your navigation bar. Use color for your navigation bar and make it visible to the visitor right away. If your site’s background is bright, use a dark color – and vice versa. Also, be sure to keep the navigation bar in a standard place – this will help ensure the fidelity to the design scheme and make it a more fluid experience for the user.

the use of colors on a website

The website’s navigation bar can help create an accessible site and make the user feel that they can easily get what they need. This can also be helpful with blog navigation so that users can be inspired to explore the website navigation menus for finding other blog content. Use any website navigation inspiration to create a product that is pleasing and simple to use.

11. Make the navigation tie in with business priorities

How you design the site should be aligned with the key goals and objectives of the business. Drive people to where they’re going to get the best information and experience about your company.

12. Incorporate CTAs

Your website is full of pages you want your viewers to see, so ensure that they navigate to the next logical page by making the most out of calls-to-action. Not only can the right CTA improve your click-through rate, but also help you get more leads that turn into customers.

CTAs are also ideal for when you want a potential customer to fill out a form, read more about a specific topic, share your content online, or even sign up for an event you're promoting. Just make sure they stand out and avoid the worn “click here”. This is stronger with a catchy phrase or one that ties in directly with the content.

CTA on a website

Best website navigation practices and tips

These tips can provide a better navigation experience and a site that users will want to spend more time with.

Here are a few other things to consider:

  • Add a 'back to the top' button to reduce page refreshes. Website navigation buttons with the right functionality can vastly improve the experience.
  • Draw your menus on paper and see how they connect – if it doesn't make sense on paper, it won't make sense online!
  • Think about the websites you like to use. What makes them easy? Are they cluttered with information, or are they rather kept simple?

Run A/B tests with different menus to see what keeps visitors on the site longer.

Do you have any other tricks in mind? Share them in the comments below or contact one of our experts today!

About the author: Olivia is a young journalist who is passionate about topics of career, recruitment and self-development. She constantly tries to learn something new and share this experience on Aussie writing service as well as on other relevant websites.

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Agata Rączewska

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