Navigation is instrumental to the success of your website. It plays a significant role in how easy and enjoyable your site is to use. The more people enjoy being on your site, the longer they’ll stay and the more likely they’ll convert. Leave your site to be a messy sandbox of links, and you’ll have users running in the other direction.
In short, your website’s navigational system is like a roadmap to all the different areas of your site. By using a consistent navigation scheme, visitors can get from one page to the next in a seamless manner.
Knowing how essential navigation is to the performance of your website, it’s no surprise that new trends keep popping up. Web designers find new and better ways of doing things, and it’s important to keep up so that you’re not left behind.
Some of the most common goals for navigation trends are to:
Get visitors around your site with less repetition
Reduce clutter by grouping links together
Cut down on the number of clicks needed to get somewhere
Eliminate user confusion
Prevent visitors from becoming frustrated or impatient
Though there are many navigation trends that are worth talking about, we wanted to focus on three specific ones today. We feel that these trends are highly valuable, especially for sites that lack a clear, concise navigation scheme.
Trend Alert #1: Navicons
Facebook may have popularized the use of navicons, but the foundation was already there. With the rise of responsive design, web designers were in need of a way to pack multiple links into a navigation panel that could be hid off-screen.
The navicon, otherwise known as the “three line menu” or “hamburger menu,” became that solution. It looked great and quickly became a go-to option for mobile apps and websites.
Sadly, nothing is quite that easy in the web design world. Though the navicon is easily recognizable and practical, it does have limited uses. Some websites have hundreds of links in the navigation, which renders navicons almost useless. It’s difficult to pack all those links into one simple tab strip.
However, if you like the clean, simple look of the navicon but have a large website, you’re not out of luck. There are ways to use navicons even with a lot of links. For instance, you may use the navicon as a secondary tool, meaning that the most critical elements of navigation appear outside the menu.
If you’re not sure whether to use the hidden menu or not, you can always run your own usability tests. This way, you can know for sure if your visitors are taking advantage of the navicon or looking right past it.
Trend Alert #2: Full Screen Navigation
Full screen navigation windows feel quite natural on mobile devices. When you click on a certain button or link, the full screen option is activated. Instead of having a small panel that slides out from the button, the navigation takes up the entire screen. Again, this is something that is familiar on tablets and smartphones, but it’s a bit different on a desktop or laptop.
The benefit to having full screen navigation is that all important material is on the same screen. You may include information like your social media links, recent blog posts and a clear, concise CTA. You may also include your contact information and a contact form. This way, the user can do everything from a single page.
What’s nice about full screen navigation is that you can make adjustments to increase conversion rates. By providing users with multiple ways to reach you (by filling out a form or connecting with you on social media), you steer users toward one specific goal.
Trend Alert #3: Mega Drop-Down Menu
The mega drop-down menu, or super-sized menu, may not be new, but it’s getting a makeover. What’s different is the type of information that’s being placed on the menu. Rather than listing off a handful of links in the menu, more websites are using the space to feature important content.
Let’s say that you’re shopping for summer clearance items at a local hardware store. You hit the “clearance” link and out pops a mega drop-down menu that features pictures of swimming pools, grills, backyard toys and tables and chairs. Right away, you see where you need to go to find the products you’re looking for.
One advantage to this feature is that you can direct users toward your most profitable items. When pulling down the menu, you may feature your most important products or list your items by “bestsellers” or “most popular” first. This way, customers are finding what they need quickly and efficiently, and you continue selling your most lucrative items.
These three navigation trends are just the tip of the iceberg. There are dozens of trends that are worth looking into, and if you’re not sure what’s going to be effective for your website and your audience, test your site.
In the end, don’t leave navigation for the end. It’s not dessert. It’s the main course. By reviewing navigation on the front end of your design, you can think about the path that your visitors will be following and how your navigation will help them get there. The more direct it is, the better for everyone.