You can spend days on designing the perfect navigation system and still come out wrong. The reason for this is that any navigation system that’s not designed with the user in mind is just a decorative feature, and nothing more. So how do you design the perfect navigation system for your site?
1. Minimum Clicks
You want your visitor to get to the content or item they want with as few clicks as possible. You can achieve this by laying out multiple navigational options such as breadcrumbs, drop-down menus, sidebar categories and so on.
2. Drop Down Menus
Cleverly designed and well-captioned drop-down menus allow plenty of space to display all categories. Make sure they’re clearly visible upon mouse over, and that it is easy to click on a sub-option. When used properly, drop-down menus can save a great deal of real estate, enabling plenty of white space.
3. Friendly Caption Text Color
Site captions should be designed in unique colors – colors that stand out. You can go with the classic black and white, but opting for clearly visible and friendly colors ensures that visitors get to read what you’ve written. Stick to a two-color combination if you don’t want to use too many colors.
4. Easy-to-read Caption Text Font
Not everyone loves basic, fundamental fonts such as Times New Roman and Ariel. Aim for interesting fonts that scale well and are understandable in both larger and smaller sizes. Look for fonts that look good in different sizes on different viewports, such as iPads, smartphones, small notepads and desktops.
5. Bread Crumbs
Bread crumbs may be an old way of helping visitors keep track of where they are on a website, but this old and tested method still works. If your website has many pages, you need to enable friendly, linkable breadcrumbs navigation so that your visitor can go back and forward among pages and product categories.
6. Clearly-marked Sub Navigation
People want simple navigation, but some designers go all out with concealed sub menu tabs which confuse visitors. Make sure your sub menu tabs are clearly organized and fall neatly from the main menu tab via a downward arrow symbol so that the visitor is not confused.
7. A Complete Category Navigational Menu
Look at Amazon.com and its amazing success as an e-commerce portal. Amazon has a simple, easy to use navigational menu through which you can explore all product categories. Such a category navigational menu is friendly and allows visitors to get to the item they want, quickly and without fuss.
8. An Intuitive Search Menu
Enable search based on a multitude of options; the search feature should accept any input, even a couple of letters, and deliver intuitive results. An Advanced Search option helps visitors fine-tune search criteria, while the ability to sort and filter search results helps them to arrive at specific results.
9. Header and Footer Navigation
Use these navigations to provide links to pages most readily used, such as About Us and Contact Us, and to link to major product or blog categories, pages and tags. Footer menus are great when your site has a lot of content; they are useful and don’t detract from your website’s professionalism or purpose.
10. Correct Navigational Order
Analyze what’s most important to your audience and place the most important tab first, followed by lesser important ones. The last tabs should be the least important ones, such as the Contact Us tab. Visitors tend to remember the first and last navigational menu tabs, so be careful what you place in these spots.
11. Navigation Options Phrasing
You may be tired of the standard naming structure for navigational options. For example, many sites use ‘Who We Are’ for ‘About Us’. Just make sure that your phrasing is clearly understood, is in line with your type of business and is aligned with the terms your customers would use.
12. Easy-to-understand Captions
Captions – whether they’re menu captions, image captions or mouse-over captions, must be easy to read. Use readily recognizable words that any visitor can understand; words that are to-the-point, specific about the intent and easy to read on the go.
13. Matching Text Fonts
Match text fonts on your site’s navigation to leave a uniform, graceful and professional impression. For example, if you use different text fonts and sizes for the main navigation captions and the breadcrumbs, you’ll throw your site’s look out of balance and look less professional.
14. Categories In Sidebar
Providing a list of categories or tags in the left sidebar (especially the categories accessed on visitor’s previous visit) is considered very visitor-friendly. This feature works well both for blogs and eCommerce website. Just be sure that the categories sidebar can be accessed from every page.
15. Less Scrolling
Don’t force your visitor to scroll down to the bottom or to the extreme right of the page looking for your Call To Action (CTA). Keep everything important above the fold, especially your CTA, product copy, USP, and so on.