My last article covered the Basics of Information Architecture, so I thought a good follow-up would be to take a look at intuitive navigation. You’ve probably been on a website that had inconsistent, poorly labeled, or otherwise confusing navigation before. How long did it take you to leave that site and go to one in which you could actually find what you wanted/needed? If you’re like most people, it was probably just a matter of seconds. In this article, we will learn more about intuitive navigation, why it is important, and what you can do to make your own website navigation more intuitive for both human users and search engine robots. Let’s jump in!
What is intuitive navigation?
Intuitive navigation just means that your visitors are able to find what they are looking for on your website with ease, and it is designed to allow traffic to flow from webpage to webpage. In other words, users should just kind of “know” how to navigate your website without having to learn anything new. Your menus and other navigation should be logical to them. One way to be sure that your navigation system is intuitive is to stick with some Common Web Conventions. An example is positioning global navigation somewhere within the top 25% of the web page, but we will delve more deeply into this and other techniques in the “How do I achieve intuitive navigation?” section below.
Why is intuitive navigation important?
Intuitive navigation is important to users and search engines, as it enables both to find what they are looking for more efficiently. Most people will scan your global navigation menu when they enter your site from a search engine or another website to see if there is anything else that interests them. Ensure that your menu labels let them know what kind of information they are going to find within your web pages. Always design your menus with human users in mind; however, there are ways of creating SEO friendly navigation that still puts people first.
For example, descriptive menu labels are very helpful to users and robots. Do not just label your page “Development” on your menu, but specify what you develop instead. You could be developing websites, software, business plans, personal goals… Who knows? That’s why your menu should be specific. Visitors and search engines will both have a better time finding what they need if you say something like “Software Development” or “Personal Development”.
How do you achieve intuitive navigation?
Like any project, it is imperative to begin with brainstorming. List all of the pages you think your website will require, even if some may seem silly. Remember, there are no wrong answers in brainstorming and it should freely flow. You can always remove any irrelevant ideas when you finish. The point is to not limit yourself during the brainstorming process.
It is always a good idea to plan the website navigation systems from the very start with Information Architecture (IA). (Starting with website navigation can also serve to streamline the rest of your website planning process.) Some tips on creating intuitive navigation for your website’s visitors are:
- Display global navigation / main navigation bar in the top 25% of the page (or in the left sidebar if you prefer);
- Place navigation menu(s) consistently throughout the website;
- Make it simple to learn;
- Keep number of clicks to the next piece of information or section to a minimum;
- Use breadcrumbs that show visitors how to get back to where they started;
- Label menus according to common web conventions that everyone knows and understands;
- Don’t use industry jargon that might be confusing or unclear to users;
- Make each link unique;
- Organize navigation into logical groups;
- Don’t force the user to scroll to reach any part of your global navigation;
- Never disable the browser’s back button;
- All important/main web pages should be accessible from your global/main navigation;
- Provide local navigation or a secondary menu if necessary (usually for larger websites);
- Make sure your menus are mobile friendly;
- Provide users with a “call-to-action” that guides them to the web page(s) that allow your website to achieve its ultimate goal;
- Use internal linking (link your web pages together within your own copy) to drive traffic to your call-to-action and/or other important pages on your website.
What are some of the benefits of intuitive navigation?
Designing a website that is easy to navigate is beneficial in so many ways. Visitors are more likely to return to a site with great information that is easy to find. Following are just a few of the numerous benefits you will enjoy if you employ intuitive navigation on your website.
- Website traffic;
- Repeat visitors;
- Readership and/or subscribers on your blog or newsletter;
- Sales on your e-Commerce website;
- Social media connections;
- Engagement on social media and/or blog posts/articles;
- SERP rankings for the individual web pages of your website.
Making your website navigation intuitive for your visitors is a great way to elevate their user experience and convert them into content consumers of your website. After all, the main goal of any website is the conversion of traffic into subscribers, members, paying customers, etc. People are more inclined to stay on your site and see what you have to offer if they do not have any trouble finding what they need. Search engines will be more likely to rank your site higher on their SERPs if their robots can crawl your pages more easily. All of this can be aided with the implementation of intuitive navigation on your website.
By: Danielle Dandridge