People don’t have time to navigate a confusing website. If you want consumers to use your website to research products, ask for help and make a purchase, you need great web navigation. In fact, navigation is one of the most important factors for usability and user experience. By focusing on the navigational aspects of your website, you can greatly improve your site’s performance.
Here are three characteristics that separate good navigation from great navigation.
1. Distinct Web Elements
The purpose of web navigation is to help users find content on your website. Navigation should always be simple and intuitive, and a way to achieve this is by using distinct elements. All navigational text and buttons should use a different color so that they stand out from other elements on your page.
Consistency is key. Use the same format for all of your pages. You want each page of your site to feel comfortable and familiar so that users know what to do. However, don’t get too creative with the placement of buttons, menus, etc. Where you place elements on your page should still align with user expectations.
2. Short, Descriptive Text
Even though simplicity is best for web navigation, you want to be descriptive when communicating to visitors. This doesn’t mean that you have to write in long sentences, but it does mean that you should use detailed words and phrases to help people understand your site.
For example, instead of using generic terms like “products” or “services” to label your menus, tell customers what items you sell. Use familiar words so that visitors don’t have to stop and think what they’re reading. Plus, the search engines like descriptive anchor text, which can help you rank better.
3. Visual Elements
The human brain processes visual information faster than text. Help users out by including visuals on your website. Add a short description to your images or icons – don’t use them alone. You want to be clear about what the visuals are about and avoid people misinterpreting them.
Aside from images and icons, there are other visual elements that can guide visitors through your website. Try sleek, non-disruptive transition effects, seamless drop-down menus and high-contrast colors. Interactive feedback is also helpful when processing information, so offer an indication of the action by changing the link’s background or turning the text bold.
Navigation has a huge impact on user experience. When people are happy on a website, they are more likely to stay longer and visit again. Your website is unique, of course, so you’ll have to use your best judgement as well. The best way to know what’s working and not working for your site is by testing and tweaking your navigation system.