When it comes to web design, few goals are as important as an easy to use navigation system. After all, unless users happen to land on exactly the information that they are looking for, they are going to have to navigate to find it.
A poor navigation system can make your website a hindrance rather than a pleasure to use. It can both increase your sites bounce rate and alienate those that stick around. It is therefore one of the last web design mistakes that you can afford to make. Here are eight tips for keeping your websites navigation system both simple and efficient.
Avoid Horizontal Scrolling
Vertical scrolling is a normal part of navigating just about any website. Horizontal scrolling on the other hand is the very definition of irritating. It also happens to be somewhat time consuming due to the absence of a horizontal wheel on the average mouse. Avoid horizontal scrolling at all costs.
Include Header and Footer Links
Links to your sites most important sections should be included both at the top and bottom of every page. Such links are important at the top because it is where most web users first look when trying to figure out how they can find something. Such links are important at the bottom as they prevent users having to scroll back up when they’ve finished reading something.
Underline Text Based Links
The standard sign for a text based link is underlined text. All of your text based links should be underlined and you should avoid underlining any words that are not links. It also doesn’t hurt to change the colour of links that have already been clicked. These steps might sound simple but it’s surprising how many website owners forget about them.
Employ Effective Categorization
Effective categorization is essential when it comes to creating a site that can be easily navigated. Your categories should be both specific and well defined. They should also be accompanied with easy to understand names. Sub categories are also not something to be afraid of.
Include a Search Function
When a user lands on your site looking for information on a specific topic, the easiest way for him/her to navigate to said information is to simply search for it. All sites should include an effective search feature. And the more content that a site has, the more important this feature is.
Don’t Mess With the Browser
One of the most irritating design mistakes when it comes to navigation is browser manipulation. When somebody clicks on a link, that link should be opened in their existing browser window. A new window should not be opened and the existing window should not be resized.
Consistency is essential when it comes to straight forward navigation. Links should be located in the same place on every page of your site. And the positioning of those links should be consistent with popular web standards. Fail to meet either of these requirements and you are inviting both confusion and irritation.
Test for Broken Links
Finally, the last thing that any web user wants to find when navigating a website is excessive quantities of broken links. They can be caused by both typos and the removal of individual pages. The only way to keep your site free of them is to test for them, regularly.