Using website navigation effectively in your web site design
Far too many designers assume that users are happy to seek out website navigation. To a good designer, this is a terrible practice, as if it is not clear to the user where the navigation is, and how to use the website navigation, they will only ever view your home page. Always strive for best practice website navigation; this is not to say that your website navigation design is the number one priority, but without it, you have a one page site.
Web Navigation - Poor Practice
If a user has to seek out the website navigation, there is usually three main causes.
The site could have been designed by a graphic designer. This usually means that the navigation design will look more like an image rather than true website navigation. In some cases, the design is thought by the designer to be clever, due to the incorporation of the logo into the web site navigation system. Many times this can be misleading, as the user may think that it is just another logo.
The other is when the emphasis is put on content, especially special offers that may be present on your site. This can sometimes make the website navigation seem hidden and not really be noticeable.
The last is too much content. Cram the page with too much content, make the site look busy, and suddenly you have so much content that the user can not distinguish between website navigation and content. This is one of the biggest problems when it comes to hiding navigation, people want to have all their content "above the fold" and therefore like to cram it all in at the top.
Positioning Website Navigation
Effective website navigation design should be positioned correctly. There are four places people will look for site navigation.
- The top of the page underneath your header
- The left hand side of your web page
- The right hand side.
- The footer
Some site include all four, but that is considered to be over the top.
Personally speaking, as people read from left to right, we prefer to place the web site navigation on the left hand side of the page, with a second text-based navigation system in the footer, although, we obviously take the customers views into account when designing the navigation system.
Web site Navigation Design
Using some graphic design touches on your website navigation, to make the look a little like buttons, can help your navigation stand out. Using small images such as arrows or bullet points, next to the links, can help get across that these are navigation links.
A rollover effect is sometimes a good idea, this will help the user make sure they are clicking the link that they will want, rather than the button next to the link that they intended to click, as it will change in some way when the mouse is over it.
Try to make sure that there is enough spacing on your website navigation. This is so that visitors don't click on links that they didn't mean to. You shouldn't need to have great precision with a mouse in order to view a website.
You want to sell your products or services, so make it clear what products or services you offer. For example, if you are selling web design, there is no point calling the link on your web navigation system, "Kenkai design" this could be web design, logo design, product design, or anything that involved design.
With effective site navigation, your visitors will be able to get about your site, find your products or services and eventually order from you. Without effective website navigation, the site is merely an expensive business card.