Website Design Lexington, Kentucky

5 Huge Mistakes in Website Navigation

Enhance your website's user experience by forgoing these five navigational blunders

Five Huge Navigation Mistakes

Published March 4th, 2016

A website’s navigation is something we expect when visiting any website. Website menus can come in a string of links, a vertical-style side menu, or even icons that assist in user flow. Although many users take them for granted, a simple navigation is integral in successfully guiding users.

If a navigation is too complex, users won’t find the content quickly. If it’s lacking most of the website’s important links, it hinders a user’s ability to get where they want without clicking somewhere else other than the main navigation. Navigation is important, and it should be simple. It doesn’t have to be animated with overzealous coding or be entrenched with bright colors to be usable. It just needs to work and get users to the content they want in as few clicks as possible.

We’re going to show you what we believe are five of the largest mistakes for a website’s main navigation.

1. Not Being Responsive

Responsive navigation menus are here to stay thanks to modern design standards. A website should present one version of a navigation menu to the user when viewed on a desktop and another version for smaller screens such as iPhone and other small devices. A responsive navigation presents links laid out for smaller screens. These menus are typically accessed using the three stacked lines you see on a lot of websites today. Clicking the stack opens up the responsive navigation so you can peruse websites quickly using a menu made for the device in your hands.

Putting a full-sized navigation menu on a small smartphone screen is a usability faux pas. If you do this, you run the risk of it looking unprofessional because the links can take up valuable screen space. Not having a responsive navigation can prevent a user from visiting or navigating a website just based on aesthetics and usability alone. Do your website a favor and add a responsive navigation.

2. Too Many Navigational Options

With website navigation, we want users to find content quickly. This fails when there are too many links in a navigation. Doing this provides too many options for users to click. Even if you’re a retailer like Amazon with 30+ possible options in a navigation, this is a no-no. Keep your navigation scaled down to bare bones. Too many links overwhelm even the most savvy, patient web users, and can prevent a positive user experience.

3. Using Generic Link Labels

Products, Services, and About are common, generic, and overused nav items. Get creative with your navigation and separate yourself from competitors. If you’re a contractor that builds houses, Services just isn’t as sufficient for your content as Build or Construct could be. The text in your navigation needs to be relevant to the content users are searching for. It also provides a better foundation for SEO as users aren’t searching for the terms “Products” or “Services” online.

4. Including Unnecessary Links

We need to ensure there’s nothing barring users from quality content. Adding extra links in the navigation can place a hindrance on the user, and offers more clickable options that are better left out. Links like Home, Privacy Policy, and Terms of Service are better left out of a website’s main navigation. If you want a Privacy Policy link, put it in the footer with its buddy, Terms of Service. Why? Because they’re pages that are unneeded to make a successful sale or pitch. You want users to go to the “meat” of the website. You want them to view your services and offerings without barriers.

“How will my users find their way back home if I remove the Home link? Will they click the logo?” These two questions are asked often and usually in tandem. The answer is always, ”Yes! The user will click the logo. It’s naturally expected that logos link to a website’s home page.” Adding Home to your nav is one more hurdle for your users. If you remove it, it simplifies the navigation, and you’re left with only the needed links to the content you really want to showcase. It tells the user exactly where you want them to go so there's no guesswork on their part.

In short, out of sight really is out of mind, and users are liberated from superfluous links that take them to content that’s possibly unneeded.

5. Incorrect Navigational Order

Something as simple as link ordering can be very troublesome for any navigation. You want your most important links to be first and last on the navigational spectrum. Attention and retention percentages are highest for items that appear at the beginning and at the end of any list. Websites are no different. Put your most important links at the beginning and end of your navigation.

About the Author

Tim Raymer is a professional designer with 10 years of experience in the design industry. He holds a BFA in Graphic Design from Eastern Kentucky University. He is a design and marketing consultant who enjoys spending time with his wife, Meagan, and two sons, Atticus and Gaius.