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How to navigate your navigation

by Orla Sanders
Senior Account Manager

Imagine going into a supermarket to buy one jar of coffee. The problem is there are no signs, no branding and all the products are mixed up together randomly. Would you sift through everything until you found the coffee you were after…or would you go elsewhere?

Thought so.

This is exactly why your navigation is so important. People landing on your website are looking for something. If you don’t make it easy for them, they won’t stay.

A good navigation won’t even be noticed by the user. A bad navigation will throw them off completely. Here are some top tips for making sure your website falls into the first category.

1. Don’t re-invent the wheel

When you drive a car, you know the pedal is the accelerator and the wheel controls the direction. It would be pretty annoying if they swapped, right?

No-one likes unnecessary changes, and by remaining consistent with best practice your users will feel at ease with your website from first landing. Easy website = happy customers.

Most of best practice will seem like common sense. The contact bar is always on the right. The search icon is usually a small magnifying glass. The homepage should be clear and accessible from all pages. Become aware of what you expect when visiting a website and use this as a basis. Simple!

2. Less is more

I don’t mean pages. By all means have hundreds of pages (thousands if you want!), but make sure they are shown to people who want to look at them.

This starts with limiting your main menu as much as possible. The quicker you filter content by user type, the quicker the user can find what they are looking for. And with only seconds to convince them to stay, getting them to relevant content fast is absolutely critical.

ASOS is a great example of this; a huge online clothing retailer with thousands of products across multiple markets. But all their users fit into two simple categories: Male and Female.

By filtering this early on, ASOS can show relevant content to users, allowing them to view relevant products straight away, before diving into sub-categories.

navigation example

3. Consider the end game

Why is the user on your website? And what do you want to do on your website?

These questions are important to consider before you create your navigation. Your website should take the user on a journey, educating them on your business, taking them through the information they want to access and then guiding them to what you would like them to do before leaving.

Apple is a great example of this. For most users, an apple product is a relatively large purchase, so it is likely that users will want to understand the product (user priority) before purchasing anything (Apple priority).

The navigation divides up the products quickly, and when landing on the product page the user is given the option to either “Learn more” or “Buy”. By giving these options on initial landing, apple are catering to both customer types upfront – those who are undecided and those who want to make a purchase straight away.

But to take this even further, if the user selects “Learn more”, a new sticky navigation appears specific to the product itself.

navigation example

The new sticky navigation removes any distractions; users are simply given the option to learn about the product or to purchase. Hence Apple are satisfying the user priority (to learn) and their own (to purchase) in a clear, clean way.

It’s as simple as that. Follow these three key rules to make your website an enjoyable experience for the user and a functional tool for your business. Win-win!

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