Providing a Better User Experience
Have you ever visited a website or online store, only to feel confused about where to find the information you need? Or worse, were you unable to perform the intended task, such as paying a bill online or buying a specific product? Unfortunately, this is becoming more common. To make their work stand out, many web designers are becoming creative with menu designs, leading to common website navigation mistakes.
A website’s navigation is one of the most critical elements in a site’s design. Visitors need to use the navigation to make their way through the website and find the information they are looking for quickly.
If the navigation is confusing or if it trips up the user, you run the risk that they will grow frustrated and leave the site altogether. Simply put, website navigation should be straightforward and intuitive. To achieve these traits, we outline ten common website navigation mistakes that you must avoid.
You may have decided to create your business website after going through many digital marketing blogs and websites. One frequent piece of advice that you might have come across is being different and creative with your online marketing efforts. But the same does not apply when it comes to your website’s navigation.
While there is no navigation rulebook, a few practices have become so common that people now expect them on every website. For instance, a vertical navigation bar should be on the left, or a horizontal one should be at the top of the web page. Unfortunately, anything different can be annoying for visitors and increase the bounce rate.
Minimalist design is getting increasingly popular among websites. Such websites only feature a large high-definition image related to the company/brand on the homepage with a few options as possible. But in keeping things to a minimum, many websites hide navigation, mainly under the hamburger icon.
While this practice is acceptable for a mobile website as mobiles have smaller screens, you should avoid it on desktop websites. As per a study by Nielsen Norman Group, the hamburger icon is used less than a visible navigation bar and is preferred chiefly on mobile websites.
Here is another fact you may want to keep in mind. Only 52% of users over the age of 45 even know what the hamburger icon means. So for almost half of that population, those 3 little lines carry absolutely no meaning. They would be highly unlikely to click at all, unless out of pure curiosity.
So, before you decide to incorporate the three little lines on your website be sure to consider the implications. Younger users more likely to use mobile devices will not have a problem. But if you are targeting older consumers or those who primarily use desktops or laptops you will need to anticipate their needs. For instance, including the word “menu” next to the icon will increase engagement.
3. Too Many Options
Give a person 15 options to choose from, and it will take them longer to choose than if you had only given them seven or eight options. So the fewer possible choices that someone can make, the quicker they can evaluate those choices and then decide.
Unfortunately, when it comes to website navigation, many companies try to cram everything possible into their site’s primary navigation bar so that visitors have immediate access to all page options.
You might have come across websites with infinite options and links in their navigation menu. Unfortunately, overly extensive menus are one of the most common beginner’s mistakes where one tries to be as comprehensive about website navigation as possible.
Having links to all your content may sound like a good idea since making content easy to get to is a worthwhile goal, but an overload of navigation links will backfire. Instead of allowing visitors to see what pages are available quickly, they will become overwhelmed by the breadth of choices and unable to decide what to do next.
4. Wrong Options
Another mistake that people make when planning a site’s navigation, especially when deciding what to leave in the primary nav and what to move to subsection navigation, is that they cut the wrong items and leave in links that are not important to a site’s actual audience.
Remember, a website needs to accommodate the needs of the people who will use it. Therefore, you should focus on the content or features that are important to them.
A link like “Message from the President” may be necessary to a company’s CEO. But if your target audience is not looking for that content, then placing it in the navigation row is misguided, especially if it is in there instead of a link that is important to the site’s customers!
5. Inconsistency Across Devices
People nowadays use many different devices to access a website, like laptops/PC, tablets, smartphones, etc. Users who regularly visit your website through their laptop/PC are used to navigating it. But if that someone visits your website from a smartphone or tablet, the navigation experience could be entirely different and confusing.
Most websites do not consider the inconsistency in navigation for visitors using different devices. While it is okay to have submenus for your desktop and mobile website, the primary controls and navigation should remain the same across all devices and screen sizes. Consistency will provide a sense of familiarity regardless of the device.
6. Not Being Responsive
Today users access websites from various devices and screen sizes. The days of only giant desktop monitors accessing web content are long over, so sites and their navigation need to accommodate a wide range of screens to succeed on the Web today.
Navigation schemes are too often designed solely for large-screen monitors. As a result, navigation will break down on smaller screens, including tablets and phones, and become unusable. Therefore websites need to be built with a responsive approach to multi-device support.
As you work on editing the number of options down for a site’s primary menu, you will begin to find links and pages better presented as submenus. For instance, the primary nav may have an option for “Our Company.” Underneath this button/section, you may have other options that, while necessary for the site, are not significant enough to warrant primary nav placement. These could include:
- Company History
- Leadership Team
One of the ways you can present these submenus is with a dropdown or a fly-out menu. A fly-out menu appears once you hover your mouse cursor over a top-level link. This option, while common, can present some challenges, however.
For instance, on touch screen devices where there is technically no “hover” state, you want to make sure your links are still accessible to users. You also want to avoid fly-out menus with three or more levels. It is often difficult to navigate menu systems with fly-outs that come from other fly-outs, so avoid these unwieldy menus in any site you design.
Once a person figures out how to use your navigation menu and is comfortable with where everything is, please do not change that on them! Websites should have consistent navigation through the entire experience – for each iteration of a menu, across devices, and regardless of what page they are on. Submenus may change from page to page, but you should set the primary navigation or menus in stone.
9. Lengthy Menu Labels
Editing a site’s navigation options to present fewer choices is essential, but you also need to make sure that the text labels for the choices that remain are short and sweet.
A link that says “All About Our Company” is unnecessary when just “Our Company,” “Company,” “About Us,” or “About” would all work just fine. This change may not seem like a big edit, but we have gone from 4 words to just 1 or 2.
If you edit like this across an entire navigation bar, you will have effectively cut the amount of text that people must process in half while still conveying the appropriate content for those links.
10. Wrong Tone
Every website has a tone. That tone could be loose and friendly; it could be professional and straightforward or other possibilities. Whatever the site’s style is, the navigation’s language should reflect it.
If a website is to be friendly and helpful, a link that reads “How We Can Help” may be more suitable than one that says “Services.” By understanding the tone of a site’s message, you can design consistent navigation with that tone.
Yes, in this instance, the first text is much longer than the second, which seems contrary to other tips presented in this article, but remember the goal is not necessarily to make the text as short as possible but to make the right choices overall. Choices include the proper text length, but it also consists of the right tone, options, etc.
The design of a website’s navigation can make or break the user experience. By ensuring that the navigational structure is clear and easy to use, you encourage visitors to spend more time on your site and help direct them to the content or features vital to them and essential to your business.
If your website visitors can’t find what they are looking for, they will go elsewhere. Even if you have the most awesome content, products, or services, it will not do any good if your visitors can’t find them. That makes providing easy-to-understand and straightforward navigation options imperative. We can help!
Do You Need to Provide a Better User Experience?
Do you want to create a trustworthy website for your business or product brand? Our team of professional designers will be happy to help you with this. But, first, look at our portfolio and read our case studies.
Then, if you believe we are a good fit for your web design needs, let’s talk! We offer a full range of consulting and design services for businesses and product brands, including custom web design and development, e-commerce solutions, website redesign, multilingual web design, search engine optimization, and WordPress optimization.
And if you are still not sure how professional web design will benefit your business, let’s talk! Our team will listen to you, answer your questions, and help you earn the trust of your online visitors. It is one of our specialties, after all!
Do visitors trust your online presence? Or are certain elements preventing potential consumers from finding the content they require quickly and easily? Do you have anything to add to our common website navigation mistakes? Maybe you have some examples of your own you can share? Or perhaps you can share examples of navigation menus that you like?
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