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The importance of good navigation

website-navigation-and-menu-structure

​As well as needing to look nice, a website must also be easy to navigate - if a visitor cannot find their way around then they're quite likely to give up and go somewhere else instead, potentially losing you money and customers.

I'd go so far as saying that the website menu and page navigation structure is actually even more important than the visual design itself, though the ideal is that these work hand in hand to make sure anyone using your website is given what they expect to see and when needed, is given visual cues on what they can do to interact and move around your website.

In my last blog article I wrote about my continued advice to no longer use slideshows as the main feature of a website landing page or home page - from a website visitor perspective, this is just one part of a website that isn't used and just takes up valuable space that can be used for something much more useful.

First things first

Before I start any website design, I open up one of my most used bits of software on my laptop - good old Notepad!  Whether it's a new website or one that is replacing an existing design, the first thing I do is put the page and menu structure together.  This can be driven by existing information, client requirements or pre-design SEO analysis, but without this structure, it is hard to start putting anything together.

I personally prefer to use the top menu of a website to provide the links to the vast majority of sub-pages and sections within a website - a visitor needs to be able to see all relevant pages in one place, making sure they can see all the pages your website has without having to click through lots of other pages before seeing links to other ones.  Many pages, such as Privacy Policies and Terms & Conditions may be suited to having a footer menu link, one at the bottom of all pages, but the rest serve a great purpose in letting visitors easily see what you offer in one location - the less mouse clicks (or screen taps!), the better.

Sometimes a client has a main focus - a service or product that they want to be sure is made prominent on their website - often it can be a few different products or services.  Putting these areas first on the top menu is therefore important since anyone looking at the main top menu will quickly see this - second to the menu, putting some focus areas on the home page (preferably above the fold, above the bottom of the computer screen when a website page is first loaded and before scrolling) further places your desired information in front of the visitor, allowing them another quick and easy way to see and click through to the sub-pages for more information.

Reduce scrolling

As much as scrolling through a web page is an almost expected behaviour from visitors, I'm not personally a fan of using one large page and having the top menu link to parts of it.  I find these generally a bit too much - if a visitor lands on this page, then they have an awful lot of scrolling up and down to find the area they may be looking for, and I also find that for search engine optimisation, having a number of focused individual pages works much better as the search engines often show these specific pages as search links instead of just showing one large page full of too much information.

SEO for website menu structure

SEO is also the last piece of the puzzle - the URL wording is also of importance here, and needs to make logical sense.  If a main menu link then drops down to show other sub-pages, then I always use sensible English wording to describe them.  Imagine a main menu title called 'Cleaning Services' which then drops down to show 'Internal Cleaning/External Cleaning/Driveway Cleaning'.

I would make the URL look like:

www.mywebsite.com/cleaning-services/internal-cleaning-in-carlisle

Search engines use this amongst other website design aspects to decide how relevant a page is to the person searching.  The URL structure is another little tick box that adds into the full picture of your website - and with many SEO areas, every little helps.

Final words

The bottom line is that if a visitor ends up on your website but cannot easily find what they are looking for, they'll go elsewhere.

We design every website to be as easy to navigate as possible, using a number of standard features to make sure that as well as looking good, your website can be used easily by your customers and potential customers, driving them clearly to the areas you want them to see, using best practice coming from many years of experience designing and creating websites for a wide range of businesses and clients.

Why not check out our portfolio to see how we've done this for over 100 businesses so far?

Why I prefer multi-page website layouts
A week in the life of Light Bulb Web Design
 

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Wednesday, 02 December 2020

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