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David Inga

Why Menu Design & Navigation is Important

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Characteristics Of Excellent Website Navigation

Above all else, a good website navigation structure is easy-to-use. This factor carries an immense amount of weight in how your brand is perceived by first-time website visitors. As user experience blogger Dmitry Molchanov highlights, your navigation can confuse and frustrate, or it can build trust in your organization. Usability experts estimate that some 50% of sales are lost because potential customers can't find the information they need. Here are some characteristics the world's most effective website menus have in common:

1. It's Intuitive

Consumers form first impressions of a website in just 0.2 seconds. The average prospect spends just 6.48 seconds interacting with a navigation bar. If your website navigation isn't simple enough that visitors can immediately tell where to find their desired information, your menu design is probably to blame.

The golden rule of web design for usability is "Don't Make Me Think," which is also the title of an excellent book on user experience. Your consumers don't have the patience to brain-power their way through hacking your menu structure. Using it should come naturally.

2. It's Deep, Not Wide

Unless your website consists of six pages, you can't cram every option into your primary navigation menu. Instead, design a "deep" menu, where each option represents categories. Each category can lead to an easy-to-use sub-menu of relevant options. To be clear, sub-menus aren't your only option, and website developers have creative freedom when it comes to presenting sub-categories of information. However, keeping your primary menu from appearing crowded is critical.

There is no hard-and-fast rule when it comes to a maximum number of options that can appear in your main website navigation. Conventional usability wisdom dictated between five and nine items. However, this rule can vary according to brand. Keeping your menu simple, and opting for a "deep" presentation of information with sub-menus instead of a wide, hard-to-use navigation bar matters.

3. Menu Items Are Clearly Labeled

We've had clients who were opposed to using the word "blog" in their website navigation structures because that word has a negative connotation in their industry. We maintained that calling the blog section "articles" or "resources" would have a negative impact on user experience because it's less clear. Turns out, our internal data indicated it did. Always opt for simplicity and clarity.

The value of creativity in naming website menu items is pretty limited. Often, opting for anything less than the most obvious choice or most common primary menu items will frustrate site visitors. If someone is seeking your brand's contact information and it's buried in a sub-menu or named something really odd like "where to find our treehouse," you could lose the opportunity to win leads and sales.

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