Our series on building a website continues! Last time we talked we broke down the pieces of a website, and today we are diving into one of the most important: your site’s navigation.

Good, intuitive navigation is arguably the most important element of a successful website. If visitors come to your website and they’re unable to find what they want, they’re going to leave, and all the splashy homepages and cool graphics in the world won’t bring them back

So today we’re going to talk about the basic Dos and Don’ts of user-friendly web navigation for your personal or small business website.

Do make your navigation easy to find.
Don’t hide it in a complex design or have it appear only when the user performs a behavior (like rolling over a specific tab to make it pop out).

Do make it easy to operate.
Don’t use complicated animations or make the user hover carefully and move their mouse from one option to the other juuust so. Secondary navigation that disappears when you’re trying to mouse over to it is instantly frustrating.

Do keep it consistent.
Don’t move it around or add/remove options to the fit the design or space constraints of each individual page. Also make sure you call each link exactly the same thing no matter where the user is in the site. With builders like Webs SiteBuilder3, navigation is automatically global, which will keep you from making these mistakes.

Do tell them where they are.
Don’t leave people hanging and cause them to click the page they’re already on because they’re not sure if they’re currently reading “about us” or “contact us”. Have the current page change text or background color in the navigation to indicate this.

Do tell them where they came from (and how to get back).
Don’t assume that your user remembers how they arrived at the page showing the red women’s sale jacket. Though not required, leaving a trail of breadcrumbs for users is always appreciated. Such as small text above the content that reads:

Sale > Women’s > Jackets > Red Trench coat

Do use one level of navigation if you can, but multiple if you need to.
Don’t have a ridiculously long or crowded navigation bar if you have lots of pages to link to. Though one level is preferable, having two (or maybe three) levels is a good way to organize and prioritize information if you have a lot. But never go deeper than three…if you require more than that, you need to go back and re-organize your site.

Do provide a search box.
No matter how good a job you’ve done with the suggestions above, don’t assume you’ve done so well that everyone is sure to find what they want quickly enough to keep them on your site. Provide a search box to prevent impatience and abandonment.

Do conduct usability testing, either by bribing friends/family or through a professional user testing website.
Don’t dismiss the feedback you get because you’ve worked hard and are wedded to what you already created.

What navigation blunders have you been frustrated by when browsing the web? Tell us in the comments below!

From our How To Make a Website Series:

How A Blog Can Make Your Small Business Website a Success
Five Commandments For A Great Contact Page
How To Make A Great Website Homepage
Dos and Don’ts of User-Friendly Website Navigation
How To Make A Website: Breaking Down The Pieces
Prepare Yourself: What You Need to Start a Website
Checklist: 10 Steps to a Successful Business Website in 2013
Building a Website: Do It Yourself or Hire A Pro?

6 Responses

  1. Reply
    Online books rental library
    Jan 08, 2013 - 02:35 AM

    Nice post for creating user friendly websites. thanks for sharing most valuable information.

  2. Reply
    CustomCandyBarWrapper.com
    Jan 10, 2013 - 10:28 AM

    When I come across websites with poor navigation, I try the search function, if they even have one. Sometimes it can be frustrating if they have poor navigation and do not have the search box too.

  3. Reply
    Web Builder
    Jan 28, 2013 - 10:23 PM

    Great article, exactly what I was looking for.

  4. Reply
    cheap seo
    Jan 29, 2013 - 11:35 AM

    Awesome article.

  5. Reply
    Sarmista Aun
    Mar 15, 2013 - 09:04 AM

    Hi Sarah,
    I do agree with you because visitors loves to visit clean, elegant and user-friendly websites. Thanks for sharing the dos and don’ts of a search engine friendly website.

  6. Reply
    Genia
    Apr 11, 2013 - 01:37 PM

    You actually make it seem so easy with your presentation but I find
    this matter to be actually something that I think I would never understand.
    It seems too complex and extremely broad for
    me. I am looking forward for your next post, I’ll try to get the hang of it!

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