Designing Navigation for Success

Amanda Stoneman — March 13th, 2015
Navigation is an essential component for any website. If the navigation is not clear, consistent and simple, chances are you’ll lose potential customers.

Navigation is an essential component for any website. If the navigation is not clear, consistent and simple, chances are you’ll lose potential customers because they won’t be able to find what they need with ease. To prevent user loss from confusing navigation, follow standard web conventions and include the main elements of persistent navigation.

Clear, consistent and simple navigation is key to a successful website. If a user can’t figure out how your website works or how to find what they’re seeking, they’ll leave. The first step to designing effective navigation is first understanding its main purposes which includes helping users find the information they need, telling users where they are in relation to other pages, making users feel grounded in a non-physical space and inform them about the contents of the website.

While some designers are hesitant to use web conventions, navigation should be standardized to help users locate it quickly and distinguish these links from everything else on the page. Persistent navigation should appear on every page in the same location to keep users grounded and allow them to navigate to other areas of the website with ease.

Elements of Persistent Navigation

  • Logo – The website’s logo should appear on every page, preferably at the top. It should include a distinctive typeface and graphic that’s recognizable as a company’s brand.
  • Main Sections – The website’s navigation should include links to the main sections of the site. These main sections can include products, services, about us and similar pages.
  • Secondary Links – Secondary links are important elements of the site that may not fit into the main sections. These are usually pages that help a user use the site. Secondary links may include a site map, shopping cart or help page. These links should be less prominent.
  • Homepage Button – One of the most important elements of a consistent and effective navigation is a button/link to the homepage. No matter where the user ends up, they should always be able to find their way home. While the site’s logo may take a user back to the homepage, not all users are aware of it.
  • Search Box – If a website is more complex, the navigation should include a search box.

Utilizing standard conventions for navigation will help you build a more successful website. Just remember to be consistent, simple and clear when designing the navigation.