Best Practices for Designing Your Site’s Navigation

One of the most important aspects outside of aesthetics and a working website is your site’s navigation. If your site is not easy to get around for both your visitors and search engine robots, then it will be hard for your ideal customers to even find your site or get around it. Thankfully, there are some guidelines to help you best design your site’s navigation.

* Navigation Labels Need to Make Sense – Don’t try to be clever when it comes to putting words to your navigation labels. Use the words people have come to expect for each page of your website, especially home, blog, and contact information. It might seem interesting to you but it will just be confusing to your visitors.

* Navigation Elements Need to Be Where Expected – Many website designers love to be creative with navigation elements for the sake of design. But, while you want your website to look amazing, you can’t overlook the fact that users need the navigation elements to be where expected, which currently is at the top of the site.

* Give Lots of Thought to Your Site’s Information Architecture – As you consider your website and what will be included in it, think about which categories, organization, and labeling you’ll use to describe the information that can be found on your website. It should make sense to users, but use keywords that search engines like too.

* Navigation Needs to Stand Out – Don’t try to hide navigation in design. You want it to stand out, or your users will not know what to do. They won’t know to click something if it’s not clear. You don’t want to have to say “click here,” though you want it to stand out so that people are sure they are supposed to click.

* Navigation Needs to Be Scannable – Try to keep top navigation minimal so that it is scannable to the human eye as well as the search engine robots. This means that each word should make sense immediately and give the user a clue of what to do next.

* Navigation Needs to Make Sense to Users – Users are used to seeing Home, Contact Us, Blog, and other buttons to help drive them forward. These should be placed where users expect it, which as mentioned is at the top, and they should have the right words on them that mean something to the users.

* Avoid Right Justification of Text – It can be tempting to make the site look balanced and interesting with right justified text, but you don’t want to do that. People are used to reading text that is left justified, so keep all text on the site that way.

* Ensure Colors Don’t Hurt Your Eyes – When you develop your color palette, it can affect navigation if the colors don’t blend well together and hurt the eyes. Don’t be held to certain colors before you see how it looks online. Check out this color scheme generator, pretty cool!

* Make Fonts Readable – The same can be said for fonts that can be said for colors. You may have a wonderful idea for fonts for your brand, but they simple don’t work online and interfere with your site’s navigation design by clouding the view. Here’s a great tutorial, “Four Techniques for Combining Fonts.”

The purpose of your website’s navigation is to enable your visitors to view what they want and to accomplish a specific task such as buying your products, or signing up for a newsletter, or clicking on ads. Plus, of course, to provide information to your visitors that they care about so they can make choices. In order to do this well, it’s imperative that you keep your knowledge updated regarding customer preferences.

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