Your content management system or web builder will take care of the technical side of things but it’s still up to you to chose a theme and structure your main navigation.
Here’s a bunch of tips that will help you create fabulous navigation.
Keep Things Simple – Don’t Reinvent The Wheel
There’s a reason most website menus have a very similar look and feel. It works and people know what to do without having to search around the page.
It may be tempting to come up with cool ideas, clickable colour blocks, bits of the page that roll over and change but at the end of the day the menu at the top or left of the page works best because it’s familiar.
Simple menu’s work best but simple doesn’t have to mean boring. Experiment with different fonts, colours, hover colours, line heights, character spacing and capitalisation to bring your menu to life.
Menu’s from some of the biggest companies on the planet are just plain, simple and easy to read.
Plan A Structure And Stick To It
This is really something that needs to be done before the main design process of your website takes place so spend a LOT of time making sure the structure of your site is perfect, especially if its ecommerce.
Start with the main top level categories and then work down into subcategories and so on but ONLY create a category if its really needed. Don’t create thing for the sake of it.
A big mistake in the ecommerce world is to create a new category where a filter may do the job better so think long and hard about the structure of your new site, make it simple and easy to navigate.
Once you’ve made these decisions then stick to it. Changing the structure of your site may change the URL’s so be really careful when you do this as it could seriously impact your search rankings. If you really need to change things around then get a web developer to sort things out, research and implement 301 redirects.
Use Mega Menus
It’s not a new Transformer, it’s a great expandable menu that’s screams usability and really helps your clients discover new content. It also stops your drop down menu items disappearing off the screen if they are too long. I’ve recently spotted a few websites where the drop down menu is so long I can’t click on the links at the bottom.
A Mega Menu is a HUGE drop down menu that can hold images and nicely displayed segmented menu sections. This type of menu is really popular with ecommerce stores who have a lot of categories and pages.
I use a fairly basic Mega Menu on my own website for my training drop-down section. It gives me the chance to place a number of different pages in an area much more attractive than a slim drop down list.
If you have a complicated website with lots of categories then chat with your web developers about creating an attractive Mega Menu. They really do help your visitors discover more of your content.
Give some love to the bottom of your website. The footer is where we throw all our crap! From terms and conditions to privacy policies and other snooze inducing texts, they all appear at the bottom, and so they should, but add more than just this rubbish.
Pick your most popular categories and create a short menu that looks attractive. It will help to generate more page views. You could even have a small section devoted to a couple of best selling items or themes and create a mini-menu for these items.
The footer of your website is still your website so make the most of it and create some interesting and attractive navigation blocks.
Cross Link Content
Sometimes overlooked, cross linking pages within your website should be a part of your navigation strategy and will lead to more page views and a lower bounce rate.
Every time you refer to another page on your website, or an article in your blog then make sure you link the text to that page so your visitors can get to it easily. You don’t want to go mad, but 4 or 5 cross links within 500 words of text is not a problem.
Cross linking will really help your visitors discover more content and reduce your bounce rate.
If you run a blog then you’ve probably already heard about “Related Content Links”. There are lots of plugins available for WordPress that set them up and it’s a great way to get visitors to more pages of your website, but don’t just think blog posts.
There’s nothing wrong with listing 4 or 5 related articles at the bottom of your non-blog pages and this can be a great way to introduce people to your blog. For example, you have a page about a particular service or product that has a bunch of links at the bottom that go through to further reading on your blog.
Website navigation is all about making life as easy as possible for your visitors to find your pages and it doesn’t just mean a pretty top navigation bar.
There are many opportunities to help visitors along to other pages so take advantage of them and build them into your content writing strategy.
One final point. A big must is to make sure your navigation is mobile friendly. Surf over to your website on a phone and test it out, make a note of any issues you find navigation to other pages and get the fixed.
If you have any tips for creating better website navigation then leave a comment below and get in touch with me on Twitter for a chat.