Web surfers are usually impatient people. If a site is hard to understand because the links aren’t clear, they will immediately click away. Website navigation is a key element for determining a website’s effectiveness.
To be effective, website navigation should first be easily understood by the average web user. When designing web navigation elements, you need to always remember the main purpose of the site and the target audience. Many websites exist to provide information about a service or a product or to sell the service or product. The following are general guidelines to follow:
Make sure all navigation elements are linked clearly using standard link conventions such as menus, buttons, changing color on mouse or underlining the text. Avoid using ambiguous or clever names for links.
When using links which are non-conventional, clearly let the visitor know about that link.
Remember the ‘three click rule’ which most professional designers use. A visitor should be able to reach every page on your site within three clicks.
It is not advisable to use a flash movie on your site. Keep the page design simple and attractive. If you opt to use one, make sure you use a ‘meta refresh’ tag which will take the visitor to your homepage immediately. Provide a clearly marked clickable link or button which allows visitors to skip the entry page. Remember, many visitors are searching for information, not entertainment.
Important Navigation Elements
Internal Page Links – From the homepage, each page on the site should be reachable within two or three clicks. Vital pages should be only one click away. The kind of site will determine the links that are prominently displayed.
Login Boxes – These should be displayed prominently. Common locations are top right, top left or in the page header.
Shopping Carts – If you sell your products using shopping carts, you need to display the view cart button prominently on each page. The popular location is top right, as part of or just below the header.
Order Buttons – Individual order buttons should be large enough and visible. To receive more orders, make it easier to reach your order page.
External Links – Such links are often used in the text areas of a site. They could be references to extra information on other sites or to recommended products.
Advertisements – Adverts are normally either text or a graphic with a related hyperlink. Adverts can be positioned anywhere on a page. However, ads which are visible on a page without having to scroll are more effective.
Downloadable Items – If your site has downloadable items such as pdf files, video or audio, make sure you tell the user the size of the file and whether any application is required to use the file. Where possible, provide a link which can be used to download the application.
Site Map – This is a great way of laying out your entire website for your visitor, as well a search engines. A site map lists every page on your website with a link to that page.
Good website navigation can increase the viewing of your web pages. This will in turn lead to increased signups, sales, customers or members.