Choosing the Right Navigation
No ifs, ands, or buts about it, good navigation is vital to getting and directing the traffic you want. As you plan your sitemap and its navigation, remember if your visitors can’t read or understand the map, they won’t be sticking around for long.
There is no cookie cutter one-size-fits-all solution to every navigation need, as your navigation bar should be driven by the content of your site, but one of these three options should meet your needs.
No, not THAT navigation…
Simple top level navigation.
If you have a very limited sitemap with very distinct places to funnel traffic (e.g., Services and Contact), then this is the way to go. Opting for no drop downs or menu expansions keeps your site clean and directs traffic precisely to a minimal number of pages.
This option is NOT for you if your sub-navigation is deep. If you site has more pages than you can count on one hand, sticking to a single top level menu can make much of your site’s contents too hard to find and even hinder access to some pages altogether.
Top level navigation with sub-navigation dropdown menus.
This option allows users to access deeper content within one click, making this the solution for websites with the goal to share information (rather than to direct visitors to a specific call to action such as “contact us!”).
At first glance this may seem like the perfect navigation solution for everyone, but one con to consider is that dropdown menus can clutter your website. This may be a small price to pay, however, for functional navigation that users can read and understand.
This is the navigation option we use here on our own website.
Top level navigation with megamenu dropdowns.
Huge websites can be made easily accessible with well-planned sitemapping and information hierarchy by creating these attractive menus-within-menus. See S2N Design’s work on the lovely ilovememphisblog.com for a great example of how megamenus can make a site with loads of information easily understood and accessible to every user.
As with the minimal sub-navigation dropdown menus of the previous option, the major con of the megamenu dropdown is that it takes up a lot of real estate on the page once it is open. But if you want to allow your visitors much fuller access to deep content with a very clear hierarchy, dropdown megamenus may be the way to go.
Another perk to megamenus is that they can be used to really call attention to certain featured content within your navigation itself, so if you have a big site and lots to feature, your navigation structure decision is made!
No matter how you decide to structure your navigation menus, these tips will help you chart a clear navigation for your users as you plan your sitemap.
- Be brief. Long titles stack poorly and are just plain unnecessary. Why say “Our Products” when you could just say “Products”?
- Avoid industry slang in your site navigation. Don’t take briefness overboard and minimize language with inner-office slang your visitors won’t understand.
- Use language that your users will be looking for: no need to get creative and reinvent the wheel. “About”, “Contact”, and “Products” will make your users feel right at home on your site.
- Unless your site is one big clear-cut call to action (which is often appropriate in the case of a small business), avoid the temptation to put every page at the top level. This is where your critical thinking skills come into play as you plan your information hierarchy, and the process may really open your eyes to what your needs are if you haven’t determined how to structure your navigation yet.
Above all, remember that you can have the best website in the world, but without proper navigation, users won’t be able to, well, navigate it. Whether you already have a pretty swell website but think your navigation could use a little tweaking or need a site built from scratch, S2N Design is here to help. Just contact us today!