website navigation best practices

10 Website Navigation Best Practices

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Many website owners falsely believe that just getting web surfers to their site is the goal.

But the average user stays on a website for less than 20 seconds before moving on.

Sometimes the short stay is due to a slow loading site or an unattractive landing page. Other times it’s because the website fails to make its motives immediately clear.

But another reason and one of the easiest to avoid is poor website navigation. If web surfers struggle to find what they’re looking for, they won’t keep searching. Instead, they’ll move on and start searching for other sites.

If your website is getting traffic but failing to turn that traffic into business, keep reading. We’re breaking down the 10 website navigation best practices that you can use to fix the problem.

1. Be As Descriptive as Possible

Your navigation menu shouldn’t be a vague list of headings. If a web surfer doesn’t understand exactly what to expect from each option on your menu, they’re unlikely to ever navigate beyond your landing page.

Avoid this by making each of your menu options as descriptive as possible, without making them too long.

2. Avoid Getting Overly Creative

Just as the words on your menu need to be clear, so do any symbols or navigation tools that you use.

If you choose to use symbols to represent different pages on your site or options like the search function, stick to the obvious ones. Getting too creative will only confuse your web visitors, rather than impressing them.

3. Don’t Compromise Function for SEO

When you’re trying to pack keywords and other SEO strategies into your website, it can be tempting to utilize your menu for SEO as well.

But while getting your site ranked well on Google is important, as we mentioned above, it’s just as important to consider what will happen once web surfers land on your page.

To avoid ending up with unnatural sounding headings or confusing menu choices, skip the SEO tactics when designing your menu, and follow the rest of these website navigation best practices instead.

4. Look for Ways to Guide Your Viewers

Sometimes your web visitors won’t know where they want or need to go next.

To help them out, look for ways to guide them forward. Include links to other content at the end of each piece that you create. Add a sidebar with suggested pages to the edge of your site.

Subtle guiding will help keep your visitors on your site longer and hopefully lead to greater conversion rates.

5. Keep Your Menu Short

As your website grows and you add more pages and content, you may find yourself wanting to expand your menu options. After all, the goal is to help web surfers navigate your site. Giving them more options might seem like a good way to help them find what they’re looking for.

You should try to keep your menu choices to just 7 or less.

Part of this is because this will help you keep your menu choices more general, making them easier for web surfers to understand and therefore find what they’re looking for. If you can include more menu choices, you may be tempted to get too specific and end up confusing visitors.

But part of this also has to do with SEO. Even though we just told you not to worry about SEO and keywords when creating your menu, this is one tactic that you’ll want to utilize.

Each menu option counts as a link on each page of your website. A website’s homepage should never include too many links. That’s because Google and other search engines look for this, and penalize sites, as many spam sites fill their home pages with links.

With just 7 or fewer menu options, you’ll ensure that you only have 7 or fewer links on your homepage. This increases your authority rating with search engines and can help boost your rank.

6. Include a Search Function

This may seem obvious, but it’s a detail many websites forget about. Include a search function to make it easy for visitors to search for exactly what they’re looking for.

7. Stick to a Single Phrase Style

To give your website a professional appeal, another one of the website navigation best practices you should follow is to pick your phrase style.

The phrase styles you could use are action-based, audience-based, or object-based.

With action-based, use words like “Order, “Contact Us,” or “Shop” to prompt action from visitors. Use this for your business website to encourage interaction from customers.

Object-based offers clear info about what each menu option includes, using words like “Store,” “Contact Info,” and “Order Forms.”

If your website targets different types of visitors, such as general customers or other businesses, audience-based allows you to let each type of visitor find what they’re looking for. For this style, use words like “Homeowners” or “Business Owners.”

Sometimes mixing in several styles makes it easier for your visitors to navigate your site. For instance, visitors to a local business site might learn more with menu options like “How to Order” and different menu options for different types of products.

8. Consider Visitor Needs First

It can be tempting to organize your menu based on where you’d like your visitors to go first, second, etc. But one of the most important website navigation best practices to remember is to put the visitor first.

List your menu based on what you think the customer will want to know first, such as more about your business, followed by info about your products, or your contact info.

9. Think Twice About Drop-Down Menus

Drop-down menus clear up space on your website. But they can also be tough to use without a mouse. Avoid them to keep from frustrating visitors.

10. Check Your Mobile Navigation

Once you’ve put these website navigation best practices to work, double check that everything on your site is running smoothly. Then, check your mobile version.

Sometimes menus and search functions get distorted on mobile devices. Double check yours to avoid losing out on a large percentage of traffic.

Start Putting these Website Navigation Best Practices to Work

Now that you know how to improve your site’s navigation, it’s time to put these strategies to work.

But anytime you make major changes to your site, you risk downtime and issues with the site’s function. Combat these problems by monitoring your site’s uptime. Check out our monitoring options today to find the right one for your site.