Similar to many things in life where the journey is just as important as the end result, the navigation throughout your site is a key determinant in overall visitor satisfaction, engagement and conversion. Having the most informative, compelling and persuasive content is not enough if visitors have difficulty locating and getting to the information they need.
We’ve put together a list of best practice considerations that generally define an easy, logical and intuitive navigation that will allow them to achieve their visit goals with less time and effort. And there’s usually a direct correlation between visitors reaching their goals on a site and businesses achieving their online goals.
1. Order your navigation to match visitor intent
Remembering that your site is for your visitors to use, ensure that the order of your top navigation and navigation within pages is prioritized to be in alignment with your visitor’s needs. Do your typical visitors want to learn first about your products/services, or the qualifications of your team? If you haven’t done so, develop personas or visitor profiles to identify the different classes of visitors to your site, their pain points, level of knowledge and goals. This can then be your guide in prioritizing the order of your navigation.
2. Label your navigation for greatest comprehension & clarity
- Use descriptive and succinct words/phrases that will be understood by your visitors. Remember that a large segment of your visitors may not be as familiar with typical services/products provided, so it’s generally a good idea to avoid acronyms and technical jargon.
- Ensure that you set the correct expectation with your button/link text. Breaking your promise (as stated in the call to action text) by serving up an unexpected experience greatly increases visitor interaction cost and frustrates visitors.
3. Ensure consistency in visual treatment of similar call to action elements
Your visitors will look for visual signals on your site to quickly determine what are buttons and links to lessen the cognitive load as they review your content. Based on the first couple buttons and links, they will start to associate a look and feel to those interaction elements and expect that whenever they see that visual treatment used that they represent either a button or link. You can reduce cognitive load by ensuring that all buttons (with the possible exception of an Add to Cart button) receive the same visual treatment (color, shape, font treatment), as well as using consistent visual treatment for all links.
4. Strive for simplicity
It’s typically best to limit the number of choices to ease evaluation and decision-making. However, you’ll want to ensure that reducing choices is not at the expense of ease of discoverability. The best way to identify and organize your pages is to use a technique called card sorting. Card sorting is a process where you place topics on cards or sticky notes and then organize topics into categories that will make sense to your visitors. This process should also help in labeling. The process of card sorting is actually quite simple – you can also use an online card-sorting application.
5. Polyhierarchies can ease discoverability
For those not familiar with the concept of polyhierarchies in the context of navigation, it refers to displaying a child page in more than one parent container. For example, if you sell hiking gear & supplies that includes hiking apparel for men and women, visitors may look for women’s hiking shoes under “Hiking gear” or “Women’s Apparel”. It’s perfectly fine to show a link to a child page under more than one parent. The best way to determine if implementing polyhierarchies makes sense for your navigation is to have a deep understanding of how visitors will be looking for your products/services. Again, card sorting is a great tool for this exercise … especially if you can recruit actual customers to assist.
Breadcrumbs display a visual trail of the current page in the overall structure of the site. They’re typically found in the upper left hand corner of a page (other than your homepage), formatted similar to:
Home > Category page > Product page
They’re not only relegated to eCommerce sites, as they can be a helpful navigational tool even on informational sites. There are 3 main benefits to showing breadcrumbs:
- They immediately tell visitors where they are on your site
- They allow a visitor to quickly understand the structure of your site
- They allow visitors to easily navigate back to higher levels of your site
Although the importance of creating an effective navigation is obvious, getting there can sometimes be a challenge. Armed with this list of our top half-dozen navigational tips will ensure a more effective and enjoyable visit experience that will lead to greater levels of visitor engagement and conversion.
For more conversion optimization tips, contact us today.