How to Simplify Website Navigation Design

Imagine you’re in a shopping mall and are in search of a specific store. There are no maps posted, the storefronts have tiny signs, and they’re all located in maze-like narrow passageways. Who would shop there?

Exactly: Nobody.

People feel the same way about a website that has horrible navigation.

Brainstorming website navigation layout with post it notes on deskHow people get around to the different pages on your site defines its navigation. The fact is, plenty of web users hate how they’re supposed to get around on different websites. For example, a few years ago EPiServer conducted a survey and found 37 percent of respondents think mobile websites are hard to navigate. Two years before that, it was 32 percent who felt that way. In other words, web users are becoming more critical of how sites are managed.

The good news is if you optimize navigation for your site, visitors will stick around and keep coming back. Using the following strategies will help you achieve this goal, with big rewards following.

Everyone is busy these days, so nobody likes to feel like they’re on a wild goose chase. Don’t make users go through several layers of options to reach what they’re after. Burying important items like the shop portion of your site, contact info, etc. will just turn people off.

A good rule of thumb is to keep everything at three layers maximum. Don’t make users work for you, or they’ll go to your competitors. Grouping different pages according to category can help with creating layers. Most websites need to declutter their navigation to make it easier to read.

To check on how complex your website navigation is, create a site map diagram. Doing so might reveal some important truths. Primarily, it could reveal you have too many pages, making it difficult if not impossible to make reaching them simple. If this is the case, you could remove anything unnecessary, or consolidate pages. To figure out what to keep and what to ditch, ask yourself what value each page provides for users. If only a portion is valuable, consolidation might be best. If the entire page lacks value, ditch the whole thing.

Sometimes, using technical terms works against you. Not everyone is as knowledgeable about your industry as you might think. Instead of only using exact terms in navigation choices, you might want to consider going with general terms, at least to an extent. You must design everything with the average user in mind, and that might mean bringing in a consultant who doesn’t know your industry well, just for a fresh perspective.

Streamlining website navigation needs to be done with the target user in mind. If you’re doing things correctly, your marketing efforts are driving traffic to your site by targeting specific types of people. You must design the site accordingly, giving options that will be attractive to those types of users.

Overall, just keep things as simple as you can. You don’t want to go so simple you take away valuable elements of your site. But do eliminate enough to avoid it feeling like a crowded garage sale, or visitors will just go elsewhere.