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Getting Your Website’s Navigation Back on Course

A website’s navigation is a roadmap to finding pertinent information, a product of interest, contact information, a form, a site’s shopping cart, or all of the above. But, whatever it is we, as visitors, are looking for, we want to find it as quickly and as easily as possible, no matter where it is we have entered a particular website. If we suddenly become lost or frustrated due to an insufficient navigational structure, we are most likely going to leave the site we are visiting to head to a site that is easier to maneuver.

The same is true for our own website. We want to be able to navigate, and more importantly, we want our customers to be able to navigate with ease and we want them to find exactly what they are looking for in a timely manner.

Do you think your current website has an efficient and effective navigational structure? Or, do you think users could be getting lost and frustrated? Here is a list of some of the basic navigation guidelines that might be helpful in answering these questions.

Your website navigation menus should perform and function in the best possible manner with the least waste of time and effort.

Consistency
Although this is pretty standard by now, I think it’s worth mentioning. It is very important to keep your navigation consistent on all pages of your website. That includes menu placement, color, size and functionality. There might be some minor variations in the placement of the navigation, for example, a menu might have a slight shift in placement from the homepage to the sublevel pages, but these changes should be seamless and intuitive to the user.

Simplicity
Keep your overall navigation as clean, clear and as simple as possible. Having too many buttons can be overwhelming, so having fewer buttons and keeping your button names short and concise is important from a usability standpoint.

Creativity
Although your buttons should be simple and easy to read, they can still have some personality to them. There is still a lot that can be done using subtle colors, borders and rollovers without over-doing it. Your menus should work as accents and nicely complement the rest of your website.

Legibility
In order for users to be able to easily read menu items it’s important to do the following:

  • Use a font that is easy to read
  • Choose a point size for the font that is large enough to read
  • Be sure there is enough contrast between the button name and the button background
  • Allow enough spacing between each button so the buttons are not crowded
  • In your text-based buttons, choose a type font that is a web-safe font (not all fonts are)

Functionality
This seems self-explanatory, but be sure all of your links are working at all times. Pages come and go, but when pages go, be sure the navigation button gets deleted as well. This way, you won’t have a button linking to a dead page.

On the other hand, one thing you can run into, especially with older sites, is adding more and more pages and, consequently, more and more buttons over time. Eventually, if you’re not careful in rethinking the organization of your navigation, your menu bar can accumulate too many buttons, which again, can be overwhelming for users.

Usability
Have someone who is not familiar with your website click around and test your current navigational structure. Ask them how easy or hard it is to navigate to find information, products, etc. Ask them to assess your site in each of the areas listed above.

Efficiency
Your website navigation menus should perform and function in the best possible manner with the least waste of time and effort.

Hopefully your navigational structure is working as effectively as it should, but if you need any help or further assistance, contact Pilot Fish for ideas on how to improve your site navigation.

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