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Website layout:

Website layout: Website design tips
for successful website navigation

When looking at a website for the first time, 38% of consumers look at a page’s layout or navigational links.

In an ideal world, every visitor to your site would start on your homepage and follow the same path through your website. However, this is not what happens in the real world. So, a great rule to follow when setting up your website navigation system is: someone should be able to land on any page of your website and be able to find the page they need within 3 clicks. 

Website visitors navigate all over the place which means it is essential for your website’s navigation to be logical, user-friendly, and simple to use. Customers won’t hesitate to leave your site and find another if they have even minor trouble finding what they want.

Your website’s navigation structure has a huge impact on conversions, sales, and bounce rates.

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What is Website Navigation?

Website navigation has many names and is referenced differently depending on who you are talking to. Some of the most common names are:

Navigation bar
Top links
Header bar

The website navigation menu is there to allow your website visitors to search for and find the information they are looking for quickly and easily. 

The navigation menu should be easy to understand and use, with links that go to the most important pages on your website. You should also make sure that the search engines can easily index all of the pages in your navigation menu.

1. Use Familiar Structures

Creativity is great, but not when it comes at the expense of user experience. Put navigation in places where people expect to find it.

This includes the header navigation bar, sidebar, and footer. Make use of those areas so visitors can find what they need. If you want to add creative navigation, such as by using multimedia, make it obvious that visitors can click.

There’s a reason most websites use the word “About” for the about us or about me page. It’s clear and recognisable. The same goes for simple words like “Contact” and “Services.” 

Another thing people will expect from your site is that your logo will be placed in the top left corner and will link back to the homepage of your website.

2. Plan and Choose the Menu Order Strategically

Your navigation menu should contain specific options based on the goals of your website. Are you looking for someone to make an order? Are you looking for someone to contact you? 

Depending on what you are looking for, you will want to alter your navigation and steer your website individuals to those specific destinations.

There are different layouts of menus but they tend to all follow one of the below layouts:

Classic navigation menu:
This most widespread kind of menu is placed in the website’s header, typically as a horizontal list.
Sticky menu:
Often known as a fixed menu, this menu stays in one place as visitors scroll down your site. These work well for long-scrolling pages.
Hamburger menu:
An icon made up of three horizontal stripes that opens up into a menu once clicked. This design is commonly used in mobile website design, but is now widely used on desktop as well. Since it is such a responsive layout that works well on all differently sized devices
Dropdown menu:
A menu in which a list of additional items opens up once visitors click on - or hover over - one of the menu items. This option is suitable for websites with a lot of content.
Sidebar menu:
A list of menu items that’s located on the left or right side of a webpage.

The navigation menu is perhaps a website’s single most important component.

If your navigation menu starts to look a little cluttered, consider organising your site better. Use the main heading, then include a sub-menu with other links categorised below it.

3. Keep Menu Item Options to a Minimum

Make sure you keep your main menu short. We recommend a maximum of 7 items. Anything below 7 is the optimal amount of information that the human short term memory can contain at one time. In addition, fewer items on your main navigation will allow your website visitors to quickly find what they are looking for.

4. Make Primary Navigation Stand Out

This one seems obvious, but do not hide your main navigation. It should be visible to your website visitors in order to capture their attention almost immediately.

Typically, website navigation is located at the top of the page or sometimes aligned to either the left or the right top corner. Either way, make it stand out from the rest of the page. Use a contrasting colour to the background colour of your website.

5. Add a Search Bar

Having a search bar on any website should be a given. While it is most useful with websites hosting lots of information, we believe all sites are going to have more successful navigation with the use of a search bar.

Search bars can make it easy for any website visitor to find the page they need, without having to scroll through your website.

6. Use Google Analytics to Inform Navigation Structure

Your audience is different from everyone else’s, so you want to know how they behave on your site. Knowing the analytical data from your site is so important to know what actions you can take to improve your site.

You might discover that nobody clicks on the links in your navigation bar. When you pick out a problem like this it is then important to think about why click-through rates are low in this area. It could be that you’re not making clear that the hypertext is a link, or maybe you could have too many distractions below your navigation bar.

Scroll maps like hotjar are also highly useful. If you know that people never scroll to the footer on your website, you know you don’t have to put as much emphasis on that part of the page.

7. Use Mobile Responsive Navigation

83% of mobile users expect a flawless experience whenever they visit a website with any mobile device. Although it seems self-explanatory nowadays, the use of a responsive website will ensure that your website will look great on every device that a website visitor might use.

The hamburger menu is useful in ensuring website responsiveness for both mobile and desktop devices. This type of menu has a compact size that fits well on mobile devices without causing distortions of other buttons.

Related: Reasons why having a mobile responsive website is important here.

8. Add a Footer

The website footer is the section of your website which is at the very bottom of your website. It typically contains a copyright notice, link to a privacy policy, sitemap, logo, contact information, social media icons, and an email sign-up form. In short, a footer contains information that improves a website’s overall usability.

While the most viewed part of your site is whatever is above the fold, a study by Neilen Norman Group found that 57% of page-viewing takes place above the fold but there is also a small spike as you get to the bottom of the page. The summary of their study states that “people will scroll if they have a reason to.

Since footers serve navigational and informational purposes for your audience, it makes sense to make sure this section is also optimised for navigation.


9. Consider Users with Visual Impairments

The Equality Act (previously known as the Disability Discrimination Act) should be considered when building your website navigation. This means trying to make sure your website will be easy to use for website visitors who have a visual impairment or other disabilities. 

Since your navigation system is the primary way for people to find their way around your site. Links should be clear enough to read, and accessible by keyboard navigation and text readers.

With the evolution of web design, it has become increasingly important to consider accessibility. One reason for this consideration is that search engines take accessibility into account when ranking search results. 

Another reason why you should consider equal accessibility in your web design process is that it helps customers who are disabled or visually impaired use your website.

Are you struggling with you website navigation?

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