Good site navigation is the quintessential web usability principle. Yet so often it is neglected in favor of more glamorous website upgrades. Just as a state or city cannot function without good roads and highways, a website will suffer without logical, simple, and consistent navigation. Below I’ve gathered 10 Do’s and don’ts regarding website navigation.
Do Make the Company Logo Link to the Home Page: This is so basic, yet I run across sites on a daily basis that do not make their company logo (usually located in the upper left corner) clickable.
Do Use Left-hand or Vertical Menus: Don’t get fancy and put your navigation structure on the right hand side of the site. Since visitors are accustomed to vertical or left navs, this is the equivalent to telling them to drive on the wrong side of the road.
Do use Breadcrumb Navigation Trails: There is no greater navigation tool than Breadcrumb (aka Cookie crumb) trails. It easily allows visitors to go up or down a level and re-orient themselves when they get lost. Here’s an example of a Bread crumb trail: Home > Category 1 > Category 2 > Category 2 > Page
Do Not Stuff S.E.O. Keywords in Your Navigation: This is both unprofessional and useless from an SEO point of view. Keywords within the universal navigation of a website are rarely considered as a ranking factor.
Do Not Use Fancy, Unreadable Fonts: Resist the temptation to make your navigation look like a piece of art. While fancy graphics have a very important place in a website, they certainly do not belong in the navigation.
Do Not Overwhelm the Visitor with Too Many Options: Typically, you shouldn’t include more than 7 options on your primary navigation. More than this, and you users will feel overwhelmed.
Do prioritize Each Menu Item: Make sure your menu items are listed in priority from left to right or from top to bottom. Ask yourself “what action do I want the visitor to take?” Then lead your visitors along this path.
Do Not Change the Nav on Each Page: Never change anything on your navigation from page to page. This is extremely confusing and unprofessional.
Do Show the Visitor Where they Are and Where they’ve been: I strongly recommend using some sort of indicator in your primary navigation to show users where they are. For example, if your site uses tabs in the navigation, change the color of the category that is currently being viewed. In addition, be sure to change color of visited text links so the user doesn’t accidentally visit a page he or she has already been to.
Do Not Rely Solely on Dynamic Rollover Menus: Remember, not everyone is using the same browser technology as you. Make sure your navigation is useful in all the major browser types. Additionally, ensure that each link is crawl able by search engines.
As with anything, I strongly urge you to test any major change to your navigation. With proper testing, the above guidelines will ensure your site is easy to navigate and converts visitors to sales. To Learn ways to improve your eCommerce store, please checkout the Palmer Internet Marketing eBooks.