Web Tips & Articles

Navigation Methods for Websites

Let's make it Intuitive!

Word of Mouth is a BIG thumbs upHow many navigation choices do you provide? Studies show that most Internet users develop personal navigation habits quickly. Most users prefer to navigate by navigation links, but others prefer to use the search feature, and others use the breadcrumbs if they land initially on a sub-page. We offer your visitors a choice of navigation methods so that they all have a way to navigate the site that they feel comfortable with.

Websites need consistent navigation elements - in the same place on every page on the site - so people can “learn” the site. Sites with poor navigation leave visitors stranded as they try to browse deeper.

If the website has been constructed correctly and all pages are optimized, most people who search for information through search engines will land directly on the most relevant page to their search terms, reducing the amount of time they have to surf on your actual website looking for the information they are seeking.

  1. Header Navigation links - your primary navigation system. Most commonly uses text links in an area with a distinct background color. Research shows that most people expect these links to be located; 1) across the top of the screen, or 2) along left side of the screen. No matter where you put the primary navigation on the page, also include text links in the footer at the bottom of the page. In a larger website, all the main pages should be clearly listed in the main navigation. Each primary page can include its own navigation features to additional information.

    If the primary navigation link set gets above ten, it may be time to rethink the navigation. See if you cannot combine some of the elements into a single link. Then, once the person clicks, have a page there that breaks up the page again into sub-pages.

    The navigation system needs to be easy to follow and clearly address the information needs of various target audiences. It means that people can clearly understand the objective of your website by looking at the wording on your navigation bar. For good usability, good wording on navigation blinks is essential. The wording must very clearly communicate where the visitor will go when they click on the link. A navigation link that says “Pay Bill” should take visitors to a page entitled “Pay Bill”. Sticking with standards like “Contact Us” instead of “Call XYZ” is more effective.
  2. Footer navigation links - Use navigation text links in the footer at the bottom of the page, in addition to the navigation links in the header. Using keywords in text based page navigation links increases ranking and improves your score at major search engines. Take advantage of the "hover" feature supported by browsers. This way, when someone's mouse cursor hovers over a link it will change color to verify that this is a link. Underlining and color are two clues for your visitor of a hyperlink. If you take away the clues, the site may look better but the novice is confused and can’t find links to other information.
  3. Anchored Text Links/buttons/graphics – used within the text on a page they can direct visitors to various sections of the page. When clicked on they give the effect of “jumping down” the page.
  4. Internal Site Search – Including a search feature in the header or footer of each page increases the likelihood of the user finding the desired page and thus remaining on your site. This is essential on large sites.
  5. Site Map – Larger sites may benefit from the use of a site map which includes links to every single page on the website. If the structure is complex, include links to all the pages in an outline format. Include a link to the site map in the footer area.
  6. Breadcrumbs – Home > About Us > History … Breadcrumbs are the line of links near the top of each page showing the current page and its relationship to pages above it in the content silo and the homepage of the site. Breadcrumbs can help visitors who land on a sub-page direct from a search to navigate to the page that is above that page in the hierarchy of the site.
  7. Link logo to home page – It is a web standard practice to link the logo in the upper left hand corner of each page to the home page of the website.
  8. Drop Down Menus for navigation – drop down menus are a good way to show site structure and help site visitors surf to desired content more quickly.
  9. Back to Top arrow - returns visitors to the top of the page where your navigation links are. Especially good for pages with long content.
  10. Easily understood URLs - Use simple and understandable URLs because many visitors will try to figure out the structure of your website by looking at the URLs that are visible at the top of their browser window. Stick with URLs and filenames that are relatively short yet meaningful, and avoid using acronyms known only to your industry or strange symbols.

Get the Technology Right – Search engine spiders follow hypertext links or linked images. Provide the search engine (and visitors to your site) with hypertext links from the homepage one, down through every level of your site if you want to help them find information easily.

3-4 click theory: One should never be more than three or four clicks away from other pages on the site. Set up a logically organized content hierarchy on the website organizing content into content silos. People come to your home page, click on a navigation link, then to a subset of information and bingo, they find what they’re looking for. Fulfill Your Goals: Think of how your navigation can encourage site visitors to fulfill your site’s goals. Where do we want our website visitors to go? Build in the navigation to those pages.

Set up good navigation on your website and you’ll soon be receiving feedback that your website is “so easy to use” which just means visitors can easily find the information they are looking for. They like it when you don’t make them think too much to find information.

If you are would like help improving the navigation on your current website, contact the web developers at Yakindo Web Designs in Yakima, Washington.