Website Navigation Explained

Good website navigation allows your visitors to enjoy your site, find the information they want without frustrations, and stay there. Good for your visitors, perfect for you!
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    The design of your website and how visitors interact with it is essential to user experience and SEO rankings. Website navigation is vital to visitors because it allows them to land on any page of your website and move from page to page without frustrations finding the information they are looking for and the actual content they perhaps didn’t even know existed.

    Lack of navigation will stop your visitors from finding your blog, email signup page, product listings, pricing, contact information, or help docs. Visitors will leave if they can’t find what they’re looking for. Website navigation can make or break your visitor’s experience and search engines rankings.

    "Everything important about your website is connected to the navigation".

    What is website navigation?

    Website navigation, or internal architecture, are the links within the website that connect your pages. The main goal is to increase usability affecting the visitors’ experience to use the site with the most efficiency and the least incompetence. It makes your visitors as happy as you’d be if you were following a treasure map and, following its directions, found the treasure precisely as the map directed. Yo, ho ho!

    Why is website navigation critical to your online presence?

    website navigation
    Good website navigation with good UX design helps users find the information they are researching and, simultaneously, offers them a positive experience that will encourage them to stay there and, consequently, find the message of your business. Website navigation impacts traffic and search engine rankings. Most importantly, it impacts user- experience because, as Patel affirmed before, “everything important about your website, from the content to the URLs, is linked to the navigation”. When thinking of website navigation, think of people’s behaviour.

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    Website Navigation Best Practices

    These are the 12 best website navigation practices you should consider when creating your website:
    1. Be predictable and conventional
    2. Put your primary navigation where people expect them
    3. Don’t forget responsive navigation
    4. Be descriptive
    5. Communicate with user-friendly, conversational language
    6. Make your navigation clear and concise
    7. Make the navigation consistent throughout all the pages
    8. Consider Serial Position Effect
    9. Keep everything in order
    10. Use fat mega footers
    11. Use breadcrumbs to tell your visitors where they are in the domain
    12. Avoid dropdown menus

    Now, let’s go over each one of them in more detail.

    1. Be Predictable & Conventional

    Have a simple, clear, intuitive path to all the web pages from anywhere on your website with a clear hierarchy visibly displayed. Of course, your website needs to be creative, but never too creative to interfere with how the users understand your directions. Being predictable, you are making your website easier for users to navigate through.

    Minimalism is important to give your website a professional, clean impression to your visitors, but don’t overdo it. Use the options of minimalist navigation to load your pages faster and use fewer server resources but keep in mind that your goal is to provide the users that reach your website with the content they are looking for. 

    2. Primary Navigation

    primary navigation

    Primary navigation should be located where users conventionally would look for them. Put your navigational menus where people expect to see them. Primary navigation is a link, clear and indistinguishable, of what pages the visitors will find on your website. Usually, a horizontal menu on top of a page is what we expect for the main primary menu. It is easier for the visitors to find and use it because they expect it there. The menu should be clearly designed to contrast against the hero image and direct users to get around the website. 

    3. Responsive Navigation

    It is granted to say that all websites should respond well to all sizes of screens. Responsive websites do not frustrate visitors when they search from their mobile devices. It is quite common to use the “hamburger menu” on mobile phones to indicate the main menu. Responsive menus need to be clearly designed not to be confused with other elements on the page and, needless to say, they must keep a consistent look, feel and experience on the website.

    4. Be Descriptive

    Remember the user, who is not a web technician. The language must take into consideration the conventional way the users will interpret and understand it. Hence, the understanding of each label must be instantaneous. For instance, if you run an e-commerce website, which one would be easier for your client to understand and respond to, “shop” or “marketplace”?

    5. User-friendly language

    Besides being descriptive, your language should be user-friendly.  Your users are a critical part of your networking process. Promote a feeling of belonging. Encouraging them to engage and interact with your products or services. Keep people in mind. Write for humans, and the search engines will follow. Both of them must be central to your mind when building good SEO website navigation. Which labels would be clearly descriptive of what you offer and still indicate your importance to search engines?

    6. Concise Navigation

    The limit of menu items should not exceed seven, which is the short-term number memory holds.  This number is good for visitors and for search engines.

    The home page has the most “authority” with search engines because more sites link to it than to the other pages of your website. This is called “juice link”. If your home page has too many links, less authority will be passed to the other pages, reducing the possibility of those other pages ranking. With concise navigation, more ‘authority’ will pass from the home page to the other pages, increasing their capacity to rank.

    APF menu reduced

    There are too many navigation items in the Main Menu, and most items have a dropdown menu. If you think you have too many items your users will look for, then consider a secondary menu. Or a mega menu. Please, see best-practice number 12.

    7. Consistent Navigation

    It almost seems unnecessary to say that the theme and structure of each page should be consistent. You do not want to confuse your visitors, making them think that somehow and magically they have changed places, do you? Your website’s structure and theme should transmit your message to the visitors logically and, from there, start your engagement with your visitors.

    All other pages should have the same inviting behaviour as your main page; otherwise, frustrated visitors will quit your site extremely quickly — in a matter of seconds!

    8. Serial Position Effect

    Have you noticed that when you reach a website page, you automatically look for their contact on the top right part of the page? It has become conventional. Psychology teaches that attention and retention are highest for what is at the beginning (primary) and the end (recency). This leaves the least important items to be placed in the middle.

    9. Obvious Hierarchical Structure

    Order is essential to keep understanding and discipline. Your categories and subcategories should be listed in order, no matter how extensive they are in products or services. It gives the visitors clear directions of where to go and what they will expect to find.  

    Toowoomba 2021 website menu

    Grouped navigation with the audience’s interests in mind, short descriptive labels with efficient use of the dropdown menu

    10. Fat Footers

    The footer is the last thing your visitors will see on the page. Make it remarkable. Make them for your advantage. Maybe it is necessary to repeat the main navigation bar to avoid visitors from scrolling up to find what they want. Or perhaps offer easy access, minimising interaction costs, to the important pages of the web.

    Another use is to incorporate essential keywords to improve your search engine result page (SERP) rankings. Using a fat footer will positively impact your bounce rate and your conversion rate.

    Moss51 footer

    Fat footers improve SEO by taking the visitors to beneficial pages within the site.

    Apple footer

    Fat footers are a useful location for highlighting significant links within the website.

    11. Breadcrumbs

    It is good to indicate where you are. Unobtrusive breadcrumbs tell you where you are on the domain. They tell the visitors where they have come from, where they are currently, and where they can go from their current position. The users will enjoy tracking their location as they feel they can manage the site and control it. 

    Unique Minds Consultancy

    Breadcrumbs make it easy to navigate. They encourage visitors to visit more pages of a website before leaving, lowering the bounce rate.

    12. Drop Down Menus and Mega Menus

    Neil Patel clearly teaches us that dropdown menus are bad for search engines to crawl and are “annoying” to visitors’ usability. It all has to do with the friction of the speed of our eyes and how fast we move the mouse. So, it is best to avoid them as much as possible.

    On the other hand, large navigational panels that drop down (mega menus) can create an excellent navigation experience for the user. The main tip is that they facilitate displaying many options at once using icons or pictures and typographical hierarchy, making it easier for visitors to scan information. 

    topic cluster graphic

    HubSpot Topic Clusters Graphic: Topic clusters are focused on a single topic and provide several chances for internal linking to keep visitors on your site.

    To build a mega menu, you must adopt the  HubSpot Topic Cluster Strategy.  Topic clusters are groups of related content that cover an extensive topic. They create a strong internal link because search engines understand that the topic page is an authority on that subject.  Each topic pillar page will house a number of other pages that relate to the same topic and link back to it and to each other page.

    topic cluster

    Mega menus are a great design alternative for tolerating a lot of selections or revealing lower-level web pages at a glance with a two-dimensional dropdown style with many options


    Website navigation does not finish here. This article explained the importance of this SEO tool and gave you some tips on what to do to increase your website success. There is a lot more learning out there to exploit. But, what you have learned here is enough to start making your web pages more effective, with clearer, intuitive navigational experiences.

    The more user-friendly your website navigation is, the happier your visitors’ experience will be. And consequently, the longer they will stay on your site.

    Are you ready to create Something Spectacular?

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    I hope you enjoyed reading this article. Did you find the information on this post useful? Leave your comments below. 

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    Cidinha Moss

    Cidinha Moss

    Cidinha Moss is the founder of Moss51 Art & Design, an SEO Content Writing and Web Design studio. She is a content writer and artist, with a background in languages, education, marketing, and entrepreneurship with years of writing, teaching, and providing effective text, images, and web designs to her clients. You can find her on Facebook or LinkedIn.

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