A navigation menu is a vital element of any website. It helps users find what they are looking for quickly and easily, and it allows site owners to keep pages organized and tidy. Even if the design is amazing, a cluttered navigation menu can ruin the user’s experience.
Keep your main navigation simple.
The navigation in the header is the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the website’s information architecture (IA). Not EVERY PAGE should exist in the header navigation. We recommend using a sitemap page or adding all page links in the footer navigation, in case someone needs to dig deeper. The main navigation should house the primary pages that are important to your user’s journey to taking action on the website.
Avoid too many subpages.
It’s easy to start putting pages inside of pages, and heaping dropdowns inside of dropdowns. We recommend keeping the levels at 2 or 3 at most. Also, avoid long lists within these dropdowns. The user is looking for information fast and they don’t want to be spending too much time trying to find what they want on a list.
If you can, avoid list dropdown navigations altogether.
Dropdown menus can be difficult for search engines to crawl. Depending on how they’re programmed, they may lead to problems. Usability studies also show that dropdown menus are annoying. If you must use dropdowns, consider building a mega menu dropdown. Mega menu dropdowns are more effective than list dropdowns because they offer many options at a glance, making that moment of friction for the user worth it.
Keep your navigation short.
We recommend no more than 6 or 8 pages in your main navigation. Too much becomes overwhelming and the user might feel lost.
It should be clear what page the user is going to click on. People don’t want to have to decipher your page titles. “Ready?” might be more fun, but “Contact Us” is very clear. “Products,” “Services” or “Solutions” doesn’t say what you do. Descriptive navigation items that your user understands will guide them through your website.
Consider the user’s perspective.
What words are they looking for? How might they perceive your site? If they want to learn about who you are before jumping into your product, that might determine your navigation order.
Don’t forget about SEO.
You don’t want to keyword stuff your navigation, but spend time adjusting your navigation text to include your seed keywords if you can.
Consider having the last nav item your most important page, and make it stand out.
If you want people to contact, donate, or signup, make that clear. Make it look like a button, add an underline, or change the font color to give more importance to that page. Cognitive studies show evidence that web page viewers tend to remember links on either end of the navigation most vividly, so make your main call-to-action the last item in your menu. Web strategist Andy Crestodina says, “Put your most important items at the beginning of the navigation and the least important items in the middle. ‘Contact’ should be the last item on the list, putting it at the far right in top-level horizontal navigation, a standard location.”
Avoid mobile hamburger menus for desktop navigations.
It adds a click to everything. If you want to take the next step, you have to click. It may be more beautiful, but it also slows down the user’s journey and might cause a higher bounce rate.
Use descriptors in your mobile menu.
If your target audience is younger and more tech fluent, they probably already know that a 3-line icon will open the navigation menu. If your target audience is older, consider pairing the icon with the word “MENU.” It doesn’t take up too much space and can increase usability substantially.
Navigating your way around a website can be tricky to figure out, but we hope our list helps you build more effective navigation menus in 2022.