This is the final installment in the ‘what makes a good website’ series, if you’ve missed the previous entries of the PLAN I’ve linked them up for you below.
Our focus this week lands on website navigation, and the importance this component plays in your site’s success and audience satisfaction.
Unfortunately navigation seems to be viewed solely as that primary strip sitting proudly above or below your header image. Wrong.
Your website is a navigation network, punctuated with content who’s purpose is to support and promote the existing navigation.
You want your audience to navigate around your site, to explore, get comfortable, be impressed, and find you worthy of visiting time and time again.
You produce content to support them in taking that action.
Post an image and it automatically attaches the default image location link…which you should be changing to something far more useful by the way, and assigning alt tags too.
Your Sidebar content may contain an opt-in form, adverts or sponsorship blocks, popular or recent posts, resource pages, social media icons etc..etc… All navigation.
Your website navigation should provide a way in, and most importantly provide a way back out. Transparently and openly.
Visitors don’t like feeling like they have no control or getting lost. It’s frustrating and will result in them kicking you to the kerb.
Your website navigation has to make sense to your users first and foremost. Then, and only then, take the search engine requirements into consideration.
Here’s some check points for review:
Multi-tiered drop down menus can be cumbersome and make your website navigation look cluttered. You don’t have to display every page on your site on every page of your site…(no that wasn’t an echo). Less is definitely more.
Let me put it to you this way. A book doesn’t give away its whole plot in the first chapter. A stripper dosen’t rip all their clothes off in the first 30 seconds. The fast or total reveal may do more to alienate than you think. Uncover only what is necessary for the action you require.
Websites for the most part follow the same general patterns in navigation placement. As a result, we as consumers have been trained to look to certain areas where we expect to find the things we’re looking for.
If you are going to create something completely different with your website navigation rules, make sure that difference is still clear and easy to understand. Otherwise you could hit some negativity and frustration with your visitors
Scrolling website navigation is something that is becoming more popular, in effect creating a one page site, over multiple pages. Like the following example which shows how clean & simple you can make your site…love the tagline too.
More Than Your Homepage
Don’t design your navigation from the home page out. All visitors don’t come via your homepage. Make sure no matter what page they arrive on, there is consistency in your website navigation
While you may think you’re being artsy and creative by having a different type of funky navigation on different pages, it’s not going to do you any favors.
Why Isn’t It Working?
Nothing is more frustrating to a visitor than navigation that doesn’t work. Make sure that you test everything, and review how your site loads in the all the major browsers.
Are You Mobile?
Increased access from mobile devices means that website navigation can be a complete pain in the ass if your site is not formatted for mobile browsing. Fortunately there’s an easy solution. WPTouch is a wordpress plugin that converts your site for mobile viewing, making it a much more pleasurable experience for your visitors.
Text vs Image
The vast majority of sites primary navigation will be text based (like here on Respectfully Disobedient) There is the option however to utilize image navigation, which can have a fantastic look and feel if done well like this one below.
Each of the Polaroids is a navigation link and becomes color when you mouse over. One thing to consider is load time if you decide to use this type of website navigation. As we all know…slow load times cause visitors to click away, optimize your images if you run with this style.
Flash Ain’t So Flash
While flash may be cool and interesting, creative and fun. It won’t do you any favors when it comes to search engine love…they can’t get in to read the code. While using flash in small doses may be fine for some areas of your site don’t use flash in your navigation
While its impossible to cover all the angles here in this post, and we haven’t even begun to touch on SEO aspects, I hope this post has given you some food for thought on the design of your website navigation. Please share it if you liked it.
I’ll have some more news on website structure and design coming up in the next couple of weeks, with a special offer for subscribers. If you’d like to get in on the action, make sure to sign up below.