To prevent users from bouncing off your page, you need to provide them with a good user experience. Much of this experience is found in your site’s navigation. How easy is it to find information? How is the content organized? Does the website provide a fluid experience?
People want to reach their goals in as few steps as possible. Therefore, it’s important that your site helps visitors find what they’re looking for without getting lost, distracted, or frustrated. Luckily, you have your navigation bar to point users in the right direction. Let’s talk about how you can perfect this important, but often overlooked, design feature.
Keep it Simple
Your navigation menu should be incredibly simple. This is harder than it sounds, especially if you have many categories. To help with this, arrange your site’s information and group content together in a way that makes sense to visitors. You may have to do some testing beforehand (i.e., focus groups, card sorting) to find out how your users expect your content to be structured.
Use Clear Labels
All labels and wording should be clear, familiar, and to the point. Now is not the time to make up words or phrases. Again, running a few tests can help you uncover how your audience expects your navigation menu to look. If you need more clarity, use descriptive text or visuals to get your point across. Personal wording is OK, too.
Place it at the Top
The positioning of your navigation bar is extremely important. Research from Nielsen shows that people follow a letter “F” pattern when looking at web content. Visitors expect the most important information to be at the top of the page and on the left side.
Your navigation menu should be at the top, but you do have choices when it comes to where.
Above the header. If you have a loud header, put your navigation bar on top of the header. This is where many brands place their navigation menu.
In the header. You can place your navigation bar inside the header, but make sure it doesn’t distract users.
Below the header. If your header is important and you want users to read it, place your navigation menu directly below it.
People tend to prefer visuals over text. If it makes sense for your brand, incorporate visuals into your navigation menu. Of course, there are a few cardinal rules to follow. First, select visuals that are easy to interpret. Icons are a great option for simple visuals, but make sure they are meaningful and consistent with your design. Second, use color to your advantage. It can be used to highlight menu items, blend the bar in with the design, and keep users on track.
The navigation bar is a crucial part of your web design, but it’s often overlooked. By giving attention to your navigation menu, it will become a core part of your design and provide visitors with a great user experience.
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