A Guide to Creating User Friendly Website Navigation

An often overlooked part of website design involves the creation and placement of a website’s navigational links. If your links are badly placed, your visitors may become frustrated and leave your website before ever finding your navigation. If your links are improperly labeled, your visitors may become hesitant to click the close button. Nevertheless, there are many ways to make your website’s navigation more user friendly to your visitors. Below are few useful suggestions to get you started.

1. Choose the Best Location for Your Navigation.

As they say, location is everything. Be sure that your navigational links can be easily found by visitors. Most visitors will not search for hard to find navigation. Therefore, it is always best to display your links in an obvious area. This will help your visitors to explore and stay long on your website.

Common ways to display a website’s navigational links include horizontally across the top of the page or in a vertical column near the top right or top left. This has become a standard among the web designers . E-commerce store, news websites, magazine almost all the big websites follows this format .

Horizontal navigation establishes a visual hierarchy and informs user the content is after the navigation.

Vertical navigation can function as main menu or extension of the main to allow quick access to the content. It also enforces the idea of western world’s reading pattern from left to right. That is why most of the sidebar/ vertical menus in many websites usually placed on the left side.

For websites with large scrollable web pages, a second set of links near the bottom of the page (footer) can also be helpful.

2. Keep it Consistent

Once you have chosen the best place to display your navigational links, it is important to maintain this position throughout the rest of your website. Frustration is a common response when visitors must seek out the changed location of a website’s navigation with each newly loaded page. Having a standard navigation location on each of your web pages will make browsing through your website easier for both your new and returning visitors.

When you click through Mailchimp website, the page background color changes. However, the navigation color, position stays same.

3. Label Your Navigation Carefully

Whether you choose to use images, text, or a combination of the two within your website’s navigation, it is important to use graphics or labels that can be easily understood by your website’s visitors. There should be no confusion where any of the links in your navigation will lead.

Displaying poorly labeled links can be confusing for your visitors, which can ultimately lead to your visitors prematurely leaving your website. This can produce less page views per visit and even the loss of potential sales. Hence, webmasters should be extra cautious to avoid confusing labels when creating their website’s navigation.

4. Hint User By Adding Icons, Graphics and Symbols

To emphasis on the point mentioned above, another common technique web designer use is to guide user is by adding icons and graphics to the navigation . Not every website will have same navigation labels. If the user cannot comprehend the navigation label, the icons and symbols will instructs user visually.

Dribbble highlights when a navigation item is selected and  the arrows inform user that there is more navigation items.

5. Ensure that Each Navigation Link is Working Properly.

The final stage in the creation of a website’s navigation should always be testing that each link functions correctly. When clicked, do each of the links redirect to the proper page? Do the links appear correctly during each of the four link states – unvisited, hover, active, and visited? Testing that each individual link is working correctly can be a very time consuming task, but it is still an essential part of your website’s navigation creation.

Well Designed Navigation Examples

Your website might contain some of the most useful and unique content on the Internet, but without properly created navigational links, your visitors may never find it. By taking the extra time to create more intuitive navigation, your visitors will enjoy a more user friendly experience while surfing through the pages of your website.


Author:

Kawsar Ali is a web designer who also likes blogging. In his spare time he walks around with a Nikon D5100 hunting for good textures.


  • http://www.millermosaicllc.com Yael K. Miller

    Using an arrow to indicate that it’s a drop-down menu is a great idea. Thanks for the suggestion.

  • http://www.depcore.pl adam

    Good collection of example navigations, useful explanations. Always good to see some posts about the details in webdesign.

  • http://screencaffeen.com Monique

    I appreciated this article. I always like looking at what others are saying. You made good points that were well-supported with the visual images you put together to illustrate each point.