Imagine you are in a shopping mall trying to find a specific store. It isn’t one of the big names, so there is no signage outside letting you know where to go. But as you look around, there are no maps or guides telling you where the store might be. Inside this mall, there are hundreds of stores, and if you have to wander around to find the one you are looking for, it is going to take more time than you want to invest.
While your website may not have as many pages as a shopping mall has stores, the people visiting it are likely to be even less interested in spending precious time trying to find what they are looking for. Internet users are all about speed; if a page is too slow to load, they are gone, and if it takes too long to find what they want, they will just go get it somewhere else.
This is where your navigation menu comes in.
In addition to helping people get around your site quickly and efficiently, navigation menus play into SEO. Search engines look for specific features on websites, and they prioritize those that appear to be user-friendly. One marker of a website that is designed with readers in mind is a quality navigation menu.
Place the menu in one of two places: horizontally across the top of the website or vertically down the left-hand side.
Ensure the menu is visible no matter what page is being viewed.
Keep the number of tabs to seven or fewer.
In each tab, have five or fewer pages.
Each tab and each page within each tab should have a name that makes it clear what the content inside will be. Use keywords if possible.
Try to avoid generic names. For example, skip About Us and instead name it What Is (brand name)?
Make sure the names are not cut off when displayed
Place the home page link at the front or top of the navigation menu.
From there, order the categories based on what is most important. Do the same in the drop-down menus for each category.
Navigate your website using your menu.
Ask others to do the same and give you feedback.
Alter the menu based on their suggestions.
Compared to other aspects of website design, navigation menus are not glamorous to think about. However, they are vital to getting the results you want. No matter how stunning your website looks or how top-notch the content is, if people cannot find what they need in a hurry, they aren’t going to both trying.