In the world of website design, irritating website visitors is generally a bad thing. One of the most important elements to consider when doing a website “facelift” or mobile-friendly redesign is the navigation menu.
After all, search competition is fierce, and you only have a couple of seconds in many cases to present your visitors with the information they are looking for before they get frustrated and bounce to the next website.
The first step in this process is to determine your site hierarchy by creating a sitemap. This means mapping out all of the pages you would like to include on your website in an organized fashion. Once that has been determined, it’s time to make a decision as to what will get prime real estate on your main navigation menu. Here are some tips to help you determine what should make the cut and what can be placed on a secondary navigation menu.
- Home page menu item—While many users understand that they can just click the logo of most websites to go to the home page, some don’t, so it is still worth a “home” link or even just a home icon like the one below so your visitors can easily find their way back home.
- About menu item—Whether this is one page or a dropdown menu item, it is a good idea to give visitors an at-a-glance look at who you are as a business.
- Contact menu item—Oftentimes website visitors don’t want to peruse every facet of your website; they just want to ask a quick question via email, send a comment, or find your location or phone number.
- Main products/services offered—Based on your site page hierarchy, determine what your main products or services are and include them in your top level navigation. Be careful here. Many business owners throw everything but the kitchen sink into their main navigation. Not only is it tedious for the user to sift through all the menu items, it doesn’t view well on mobile devices. Instead, consider having secondary navigation menus in the sidebar to give website visitors easy access to pages related to their product or service of interest.
Now that we have covered some of the basic menu items that should be included, let’s cover some additional tips:
- Don’t put your navigation in weird places. Change is good … but not in this instance. Visitors are looking for a menu to be either at the top going across the page or vertically down the left side. If you bury your navigation in unorthodox spots, it will frustrate or confuse users.
- Avoid generic labels in your navigation. For example, if you were a fishing and hunting lodge, you would use “hunting” and “fishing” as main navigation items. Using cookie cutter terms like “products” or “services” doesn’t communicate well to visitors and leads to unnecessary clicks. To make your navigation search-friendly, use popular keywords in your navigation whenever possible.
- Limit dropdown items. Having too many dropdown items on a menu can be distracting and cause website visitors to lose focus.
- Prioritize dropdown items. Items at the top of your dropdown list will naturally take priority over those lower on the totem pole, so think the order through before creating the menu dropdowns.
- Keep navigation items to seven or less. Many website usability experts recommend having no more than five menu items in the main navigation to help direct visitors to the most important information on your site.
Hopefully these tips help you create main navigation menus that encourage visitor click-throughs and reduce your website bounce rates. If you are looking to create a new, mobile-friendly website but aren’t sure where to start, get in touch with us. Our expert Boston web developers are some of the best in the business. We can help you with a brand new responsive website that will increase your web traffic and convert more leads into customers.