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7 Tips for Designing Great Website Navigation

Website navigation is one of the vital factors that determine your website's conversions, bounce rates, and sales.

Great website navigation makes it easy for visitors to figure out where to find whatever they're looking for. For example, it makes it easy for them to find your contact page, sign-up page, and FAQs, to mention a few. 

Website navigation not only helps your visitors but also plays a great role in your site's SEO ranking.

If you're looking for tips for designing great website navigation headers, you're in the right place.

In this article, we'll discuss 7 pro tips for designing great website navigation. So, let's get started!

1. Put Your Primary Navigation Menu in a Standard Location 

The navigation menu has utmost relevance when it comes to how organized your internal pages appear. It boosts the accessibility of the most valuable pages on your site without intimidating visitors. 

The first question you should ask yourself is where visitors expect to see the navigation bar. Is it at the top, bottom, or right corner?

Well, there are four common types of website navigation you can use to 'wow' your website visitors, and they include:

  • Sticky navigation menu: This menu stays visible as visitors scroll down or hover over other navigations. It's also the main item they see after landing on the homepage. 
  • Horizontal navigation menu: This menu enhances the viewport of a site. It occupies less space, creating more room for you to add sub-navigations. 
  • Hamburger navigation menu: This menu hides all site elements in one clickable item. It helps enhance the User Experience (UX) for a mobile website because it doesn't take up much screen space.  
  • Vertical sidebar navigation menu: This type of menu best suits eCommerce platforms with second and third-level navigation. It ensures the main navigation stays visible. 

2. Make Clickable Elements Clear for the Users

Visually-stunning elements tell users what they can expect after clicking an item. 

Therefore, it's wise to think of the information a visitor will see on the other end. Also, decide on the number of clickable elements that suit your brand. 

For example, an eCommerce platform can have as many buttons on one page as possible, but the case is different for a service website. 

A website's Information Architecture (IA) is the foundation of the invisible navigation interface. It helps connect and categorize content at the front end of the site to meet visitors' needs. Hyperlinks make up the top clickable elements in most websites. 

Typically, you should strive to ensure that users can distinguish links from page content and this is how you can do it:

  • Make links bold.
  • Underline the links.
  • Use a different colour to that on text.

Be sure to use text links in the call to action (CTAs) or menu items instead of buttons. This is because most buttons are unreadable to crawlers and tend to load slower; hence, they are unsuitable for SEO. 

3. Let Users Find the Navigation Headers Easily

There are many tips for designing great website headers you will find online, but they all narrow down to helping visitors avoid confusion. 

Yes! No one wants to waste time looking for something they can't spot right off. There are millions of alternative websites they can check. But again, this doesn't imply headers ought to occupy the entire main menu.

Consider the following first: 

  1. Types of navigations: This'll be determined by the number of headers you want users to find. They can include, 
  • The main navigation: Its purpose is to call out the top-level pages. 
  • Utility navigation: e.g., careers, shopping cart, and phone number.
  • Mega navigation: It aims to display a broad service list or produce pages like an eCommerce site.
  • Third-level navigation: It helps in calling out essential items that fall under second-level headers.   
  1. What to display on the headers: This can include the company logo, CTA, phone number, login section, search function, announcement bar, and shopping cart. 
  2. The Navigation style you envision: Is it horizontal, vertical, or hamburger?
  3. The order of hierarchy you want: Think about what you want to occupy the top-level headers. This can be the products, services, or resources. You can then create second, third, or fourth level sub-headers from that. The goal is their relevance and the user experience you want to achieve. 

    4. Streamline the Navigation Options to Fit Your Brand 

    How you tailor your navigation depends on your audience and the type of business you operate. Here, the words you use should comprise those your visitors would key on their browser to describe a page or header. 

    You can opt for short, concise words, but you can also experiment with more creative phrases. The crux is you keep search engines at the top of your creativity. Here are some of the phrase combinations you can use:

  • Object-based phrase options: These phrase options use table navigation with groups of noun-only topics, categories, and pages at the top.

  • Action-based phrase options: These types are ideal for websites that want the audience to take specific actions like learning, donating, or applying for something after landing on the homepage.
  • Audience-based phrase options: These types work well in classifiable multi-audience sites. Excellent examples are marketing agencies, which have audiences with email, social media, and search engine needs. 
  • SEO-based phrase options: These types organize the site based on the SEO strategy used. They consider insights from Keyword Tools and Google Analytics. 

5. Know When to Use Dropdown a Navigation Menu

Dropdown menus are popular but can be a disaster for your site. They swell the number of links from the homepage which can make it difficult for search engines to crawl the site, annoying visitors who hurry to find something from your site. 

But again, dropdown menus are the way to go for a mega site's navigation. They offer handy options to serve visitors who expect a diverse list of products or services. 

If possible, limit the homepage menu to seven items. This will reduce the number of links on the main navigation, giving it more authority than other interior pages. 

For example, if your homepage has 50 items linking to 200 pages, its trickle-down authority will be divided by 200, which is four. But if it has 20 primary items, if you divide the 200 pages, the authority will be relatively higher, 10.

Note: You can use a link calculator to know the number of links on each main navigation and the authority you can gain by reducing them.  

6. Keep Sidebars and Texts Legible on Different Screen Sizes

It's wise that you make sidebar items clear to help visitors understand their relationship. Don't blend them with page content. Your site receives a wide range of visitors, some of whom browse using mobile devices. This means your website design needs to accommodate different users.

Here are tweaks you can use in your sidebars: 

  • Use white space
  • Add relevant icons
  • Differentiate related links
  • Indicate active icons or links
  • Use different background colours

The best way you can ensure legibility of the navigation is you:

  • Use at least 12 pixels fonts
  • Break down your navigation 
  • Avoid narrow fonts and scripts
  • Use main, second, and third-level menus
  • Organize your navigation to hold many pages

If you want your site to have many category pages, you can create four sections at the top level of the primary navigation menu.

Be sure to nest all the other sub-pages in a sub-navigation menu (local navigation). Achieving this will make the primary menu legible and less intimidating.

7. Leverage Breadcrumbs

Regardless of the size of your website, it's wise you help visitors know the page they are on and how they can retrace their way to high-level pages. Adding visible markers is a superb way to offer them a quick reference point to explore the site. 

There are several ways you can leverage breadcrumbs, depending on the brand and design you want. 

Consider the following: 

  • Keep breadcrumb titles consistent
  • Avoid too large breadcrumb navigation
  • Place a coloured line beneath the current page
  • Start with the highest level down to the lowest
  • Make the headers change colour based on the page a visitor opens

Bottom Line

There you go! You now have 7 tips for designing great website navigation. All that is left of you is to put them into practice.

If you need any help creating great website navigation, look no more than OPIN. We are a leading digital agency providing strategic guidance, creative design, and software development. Contact us now for all your website development needs.


Ryan Pelicos

Marketing Coordinator

Ryan is a passionate storyteller who thrives on challenging the status quo. He is an avid researcher with a keen analytical mind able to strategize on technology, sales and marketing decisions by analyzing data and behaviours across various industries and technologies.


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