Ensuring your website is easy to navigate is well … critical.

Nothing chips away at your potential client or customer’s trust faster than a confusing or overwhelming website experience.

But when it comes to setting up your main site navigation, or navigation for a client’s site, what seems to be common sense can actually be harming your conversion rates.

(A.K.A how often people actually take the action you are hoping to on your site)

Not sure you’ve got your navigation setup nailed?

I’m sharing my favorite 6 best practices and tips to consider when deciding what needs to live in your website’s main navigation!

How to design the perfect navigation menu for your website

 Tip #1:

Do go the ‘Less is more’ route

“But don’t I want my visitor to be able to see all their options, and then choose exactly what they’re looking for?”

Oddly, no.

There is a growing movement towards minimizing your navigation options, and this is a GOOD thing. (You should absolutely do this too).

The more options you give, the less your visitor is likely to do what you want them to.

Not to mention, the more options, the more decisions that need to be made. Too many decisions leads to overwhelm, and your visitor hitting the back or exit buttons instead. ‍♀️

 

You’ll want at maximum, 6 options in your navigation. (The less, the better).

 So, how do you decide where you want your visitors to go, and therefore what should be in your navigation?

It depends on your website goals.

For example, my website (currently) has 4 options: ‘Freebies’, ‘About’, ‘Blog’, anddddCourses

So looking at what’s in my navigation, it’s pretty clear my top 3 website goals right now are:

  • Get people to download my free opt-in gifts (and get added to my email list)

  • Help my audience get to know me, experience wins and build know-like-trust factor through binging my free content and reading my about page

  • Drive traffic to my paid offerings

My ‘Contact’, ‘Hiring’, ‘Student Login,’ ‘FAQ’ etc. are of course important pages to have available on my website, but these aren’t about to grow my business anytime soon in the ways the others would, so they’re linked down in the footer, and from links within the page content on my site.

Oh, and you can go ahead and take your ‘home’ page right out of your navigation. Everyone these days knows to click on your logo to get back to the home page, so it’s just wasted space and clutter really.

With your car and your website, cleaner is better! (Personal clean car enthusiast right here.)

 So, decide what your website goals are, and then determine your navigation items accordingly.

While I know this can be a painful experience of umming & ahhing over ‘but I can’t take out my contact page,’ remember; the more options you give, the less likely your visitor will go where you want them to.


Tip #2:

Don’t use dropdowns

This is for the same reason as number 1.

When someone hovers/clicks on your navigation item, they’ve made a decision, wahoo! … and then you just gave them another decision to make.

Dropdown menus are becoming a thing of the past as they’ve been found to annoy users.

Instead of doing a dropdown menu, link to the broader category, and then within the page content, link out to the different options.

Megan Minns does this extremely well with her products page.

She doesn’t have each of her 4 products as dropdowns under her ‘products’ navigation item.

Instead, all 4 products are on one page, separated by slightly different colored background sections, which makes each one clearly distinct and contained.

She then links out to each product with large & bright Call To Action (CTA) buttons.


Tip #3:

Don’t get fancy in your navigation

If you want to make your website stand out with it’s unique & modern design, hell yeah, I’m all for that!

However, getting all cutesy & unique in your website navigation is not the way to go.

If people can’t figure out how to get to the next page, I promise you they’re not sticking around.

Feel free to get unique and differentiate your website on the content of your page, but keep your navigation normal & expected.

People are used to the navigation being at the top of the page horizontally or down the left hand side, vertically.

Pick one of these two options.

Tip #4:

Do quiet the noise for best results

Every web page (should) have a purpose, and an action you want a visitor to take on it.

When you’d like to make that something stand out, do so by ‘quieting’ everything around it.

A tell-tale sign of a DIY website is trying to make everything stand out. And 10/10 times, the page just ends up feeling overwhelmingly cluttered & loud!

Instead of making important page content bigger & flashier, make everything else on the page cleaner & quieter.

Use whitespace.

Notice the difference in these two search engines?

The whole purpose of Google & Yahoo is to search.

Which one are you more likely to complete your search on (and not get distracted)?

In order to get visitors to take the action you want, clear out the non-essentials.

Tip #5:

Do Use contrasting colors for text links

Ensure the colors of your CTA’s (call-to-actions) & links are clear and distinct by making them a (clearly) different color.

In a large paragraph of all black text, it can be hard to notice a gray link.

Instead, make your links stand out, with a complete other color, not just a different shade.

Tips #6:

Do make sure your search bar is easy to find

Search bars are one of the easiest ways for visitors to find what they want, fast.

However, on many websites they’re near impossible to find, or simply non-existent.

Consider a search bar a mandatory piece of your website, and be sure to put it in a place visitors expect to find it.

That would be in your navigation, your footer, or the top of your sidebar.

(And don’t be afraid to put a search bar in multiple areas of your website!)


Related:

6 website navigation best practice do’s & don’ts