With over one billion websites up on the internet, the challenge lies in attracting visitors with original content. But even with the best blog posts and products published on your site, poor UX/UI design renders them useless.

Website navigation is something most users probably don’t even think about until they have an awful experience.

According to Yoast, difficult website navigation is one of the three main reasons behind high bounce rates. It also negatively impacts conversion rates and SEO. 

What is website navigation?

Website navigation is what users do to explore your online platform. Sidebars, header menus, footers, and quick links are examples of website navigation elements. These allow consumers to move from one web page to another, guiding their search and providing relevant information.

Ideally, your visitors should be able to find what they’re looking for effortlessly. Intuitive websites encourage people to stay on your portal and read through content—even convert. On the other hand, confusing navigation designs prompt users to exit and hurt your brand.

Working on a laptop

Website navigation is also important in search engine optimization. Organized websites help web crawlers do their job more efficiently, increasing your chances of appearing on top of search engine results pages. 

How to Improve Website Navigation

Given how crucial website navigation is to boosting conversion rates and sales, it’s imperative to keep it streamlined and spotless. You can improve your website navigation by following our tips below.

1. Create a sitemap

A sitemap is a list of every page found on your website. It reflects the overall structure of your platform. There are two main types of sitemaps: XML and HTML. 

An XML sitemap is given to search engines to ensure that every page is accounted for during website indexing.  It is especially useful for large websites that have over 500 web pages. 

An HTML sitemap is made for website visitors. It is essentially a clickable list of web pages that users can pull up if needed.

Woman looking at her laptop

Both sitemaps are essential to website navigation. While some argue that HTML sitemaps are obsolete, they still serve many purposes. A good sitemap acts as the blueprint of your website. It allows you to identify old pages and prioritize which ones should appear front and center. 

As your website grows and more web pages are published, XML and HTML sitemaps keep it organized and easy to navigate.

2. Be consistent

The majority of modern websites follow what is called Global Website Navigation. Its popularity is thanks to its simple design, which uses the same menu format across all web pages. As a result, users are less likely to lose their bearings regardless of where they are on your website.

If you’re using a global header menu, it’s practical to make it accessible at all times, meaning it should remain visible on screen as users scroll down.

Global menus are best paired with Local Website Navigation or the use of internal links integrated into web content. This type of website navigation makes the experience feel more natural and allows users to discover other pages that are not included in your main menu.

3. Follow standard design principles

Exposure to hundreds of websites created certain expectations for online platforms. Consumers are used to interacting with specific types of UX/UI elements, so much so that significant deviations from these standards confuse them. 

UX and UI designers working

Follow established website navigation principles even when the goal is to set yourself apart from competitors. Use icons and layouts that are familiar to users so that there is no guesswork involved during their visits. Concerning UX/UI, usability always takes precedence over creativity. 

4. Use descriptive labels

The best way to communicate is to be explicit. You want users to know what options they have available and exactly what’s in store for them when they click on a link. To achieve this, you need to write descriptive labels and titles. 

Swapping general labels for specific keywords and keyphrases makes web navigation an easier task. It also benefits SEO as it helps you rank for niche searches. 

Take note, however, that using generic navigation titles isn’t a bad thing. For larger websites and brands with expansive catalogs, it makes sense to use broad categories first before moving on to more precise labels. What’s more important is they are clear and easily understood by your target audience.

5. Use a different font style for hyperlinks

As common as it is to use internal links and anchor text, a lot of websites make the mistake of not distinguishing them from non-interactive elements. Internal links embedded on web copies work great to increase pages per session but if users can’t tell they’re there, then they can’t serve that purpose.

Making hypertext obvious is easy. You can use a different font style or change the color of your anchor texts. You can also opt to underline them or make them bold. These little tweaks make a huge difference in improving site navigation.

6. Organize your navigation bar

One of the first things people see or look for on your website is your navigation menu. As such, it greatly contributes to first impressions and conversion rates.

When deciding what to put on your navigation bar, consider the 15-second rule. A study by Chartbeat revealed that 55% of visitors bounce off a page after 15 seconds of failing to generate interest. This implies that we must provide users with the information they need within that timeframe, including good website navigation.

Be thoughtful when deciding what to put on your navigation bar. Putting too many or too few links makes it appear unrefined and ultimately unhelpful. Think of what your visitors need and what you want to highlight.

You can add sub-menus to categorize links under main headings but avoid using drop-down menus. They perform poorly on usability studies and cause users to skip important web pages, harming SEO.  

7. Add a search feature

The overarching goal of website navigation design is to make site searches as frictionless as possible. And the best way to save users’ time and effort is by adding a search bar. 

Search bars are simple yet powerful tools that help consumers accomplish tasks faster. Rather than clicking multiple links to get to a specific product page, visitors can simply type in keywords and leave with a positive user experience.

Typing on a laptop

Make sure that your search feature is visible and enabled with auto-complete. Additionally, program your search bar such that it tolerates typographical errors and pulls up the best possible results.

8. Optimize your footer menu

Complex navigation hierarchies lead to user fatigue. Even when your navigation bar is well-organized, sometimes it gets too tedious to expand submenus upon submenus over and over.

Mega footers offer a solution to this problem. They provide the links to all of your important and frequently visited web pages to ease navigation. With mega footers, users have a bird’s-eye view of all that your website has to offer in one place.

You can also take advantage of footers by adding target keywords to improve your Google Search rankings. What’s more, adding your location and contact details will help with your local SEO.

9. Use color and white space

The correct use of color and white space is something all UX/UI designers should master. In website navigation, color can be used to make interactive elements more conspicuous and direct users’ attention to the next steps towards conversion.

Choose colors that contrast your background colors nicely to make it clear where navigation tools start and end. Also, use white spaces to let your design breathe and prevent overloading your visitors with visual stimuli.

10. Apply responsive web design

Apply responsive web design

Responsive web design is expected for all online platforms, especially eCommerce websites. Remember that mobile users have different needs than visitors browsing on their desktops. 

Simplify your web layout and navigation bar for mobile sites to improve user experience. Additionally, consider replacing hypertexts with buttons to make them easier to tap and read.

Final reminders

Once you’re happy with your design, don’t forget to run A/B tests. Collect data and see if there are any areas you could still improve or omit. 

Again, web navigation boils down to helping your users achieve what they want from your website. The less hoops they need to jump through to buy a product or check your price listing, the more likely they’ll swipe their card and stay loyal customers.

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