With over 70,000 Google searches happening every second, amounting to 5.4 billion in a day according to Review 42, that’s a huge amount of people landing on websites and interacting with navigation links every day. So, it stands to reason website navigation optimisation is a top priority if you’re to make the most of these potential visitors.
Every visitor that clicks onto your site is likely to use the navigation bar at least once in their session. When optimised correctly as part of your web design, it’s a fantastic tool that can play an important part in generating website conversions.
Yet, we find that navigation menus are often not utilised to their fullest potential and visitors can be left confused – something we want to change.
What is navigation on a website?
A navigation menu is a selection of thumbnail-sized clickable buttons that take site users to particular pages. They usually house the most important sections on your site such as product type or main services so that they can be easily found or ‘navigated to’.
What are the types of website navigation?
Usually, a navigation bar is positioned at the very top of the site, and the options range in importance from the top right to the top left. Some designs stream downwards and are pinned to the left hand of the screen. This is referred to as a vertical sidebar menu. The more traditional set-up is known as a horizontal navigation menu.
In addition, you may also have heard the terms primary navigation, secondary navigation and even mega menus.
Here are a few examples of the different types of navigation:
Horizontal Navigation Bar
Frogspark, our sister company and one of the other brands under The Digital Maze umbrella, uses traditional horizontal website navigation, starting from the top left and working its way across. A horizontal navigation bar is arguably the most popular option for websites as it’s distinct and clear.
Vertical Sidebar Navigation
This is an example of a vertical sidebar in the back end of WordPress. This is very similar to what you may see on the front end of a website navigation in this style.
Custom usually dictates that a vertical sidebar navigation sits on the left side of a website, particularly for those websites geared towards western countries that are written in Germanic languages and read from the left. However, any vertical navigation on the blog would ordinarily go against this rule and move to the right. This is all down to personal preference though.
The term ‘primary navigation’ refers to the first set of links that you see, just like in this snapshot from the Boom Online Marketing site.
On some websites, when a user hovers over a tab in the navigation menu, it opens up additional options. These are called:
Primary navigation links to other pages that are relevant to the primary navigation are known as secondary navigation tabs. They are still important, but perhaps not as much as the top-level navigation structure. You may also know these as drop-down menus.
When you hover over a secondary navigation bar and even more options come up, this is known as tertiary navigation.
Ideally, you wouldn’t have more than three levels in your website navigation structure.
For eCommerce websites, a great example would be:
- Internal doors page as a primary navigation tab, leading to
- Internal bifold doors as a secondary navigation tab, with
- Single internal bifold doors being the tertiary navigation.
A mega menu refers to a menu that is so extensive that it takes over the entire page fold. While these are really useful from a UX perspective, they may seem like an opportunity to get every single page on your website into the nav, but you have to be cautious of this as it can actually lessen user experience and could also cause issues with how search engines crawl the site. It’s still important to be strategic when it comes to what’s included should you choose to use mega menus. More on this later.
Why is website navigation important?
Website navigation has to be the most basic and one of the most important features of a site. Without it, users would really struggle to find what they are looking for.
It also provides a logical structure for search engine bots to follow, helping them piece together what your website is about and ranking the individual pages accordingly.
How do you evaluate a website’s navigation?
It’s important that the user is not overwhelmed with the choice of menu options available to them. The fewer, simpler choices that are available, the easier it is for users to decide which item they should be clicking on.
On eCommerce sites, website visitors can choose to further whittle down their options using filters, so you can save the navigation tabs for the pages that are going to make your users’ and search engines’ lives easier.
When evaluating your website navigation optimisation needs, you’re measuring whether it’s as simple as possible to use. If not, then you should work on website navigation optimisation as part of your SEO and CRO strategy.
How do you simplify website navigation?
If you have a considerably large navigation bar on your site, you might want to start whittling it down and simplifying it to increase user experience.
Here are some optimisation tips that we use regularly at Boom Online Marketing when improving user engagement via website navigation:
Follow The Three-Click Rule
Anything that can minimise the number of clicks a user needs to make to find what they are looking for should be implemented as part of the conversion rate optimisation (CRO) strategy. You want to minimise the chances of a shopper getting distracted and abandoning their cart.
We don’t recommend having a navigation menu that’s longer than three clicks. If you’ve got more than that, then you’re overcomplicating things and need to have another think about what does and doesn’t need to be included in your navigation structure.
Question Whether a Page Needs to be Included
Your navigation bar should link to pages that hold the highest value both to your website visitors and your business.
As an example, Boom was working on a client site and noticed that the ‘about’ menu item had five additional pages in the dropdown menu.
To make matters worse, the top page wasn’t being utilised to its full potential. The five additional pages were weakening the top page and, as an extension, the user experience. Therefore, the pages didn’t ‘deserve’ to be there because they were taking away from the experience rather than adding to it.
To resolve this, we transferred the “Meet [team member]/About the Company” pages from sub-menu items to the content on the main “About Us” page.
This created a more concise sub-menu as well as a more professional-looking and easy-to-follow path to the rest of the ‘About Us’ content.
Add a Search Bar
This allows you to focus fully on the most important and popular pages on your site while providing the option for users to quickly search and find the webpage they’re looking for.
This tactic may require a little more development work than is available in, say, a free WordPress template. However, if this is something you’re interested in adding to your site, our design team can certainly help.
Website Navigation Best Practices
Here are some additional tips to create a site navigation bar that performs:
Don’t Forget Your SEO
It’s important to remember that navigation menus, including dropdown menus, help search engines like Google understand your site. They can use navigation menus to better understand the relationship between pages, which could affect what the search engine chooses to rank.
If you’d like to find out more about this, you can take a look at our on-page optimisation service.
Ensure a Clear Website Navigation Menu for Mobile
Remember that Google operates on mobile-first indexing, so it’s worth optimising your website navigation menu for the mobile version of your website and ensuring this works well on desktops too, not the other way around.
Put The Audience First
You may have certain priorities but they may not align with your audience’s priorities. For example, you may want to put the product ranges that provide you with the greatest ROI higher up the hierarchy of the nav bar, but this isn’t your most popular product range.
When working on website navigation optimisation, make sure that your most popular categories and products take pride of place in your navigation system so that your website visitors can find and buy them quickly and easily. Thinking about how your visitors navigate your site is a sure fire way to increase engagement.
Use The Footer Menu
There will likely be other important pages that are not necessarily going to impact ROI, such as the:
- About us section
- Contact us section
- Careers section
- Blog section
Rather than trying to force them into your top-level website architecture, make use of the footer menu. These internal links will still be seen and likely utilised by search engine, and it provides much-needed space in your navigation menu for specific pages that will directly impact your revenue.
Need some help with website navigation optimisation? If you’d like someone from the Boom SEO team to review your website navigation architecture, feel free to get in touch using your preferred method and we can schedule a chat!