As time progresses, website design becomes more challenging to get right. Even if you already have a serviceable site, you might make countless new web design mistakes without realizing it. One of the biggest culprits is poor user navigation panes.
That’s why you need to try to create more accessible menus throughout your site. You may not know which aspects go into making a more user-friendly website navigation pane. If so, this blog post covering the main components of one should help you better align the ones on your site.
Keep Things Simple
The key to a useful navigational pane is simplicity. Cluttered menus can drive away potential customers. When searching for one specific thing, they might have trouble finding it and give up. Even worse, they could become overwhelmed by the number of choices before attempting to search through them, causing them to back out of your site even quicker.
While a cluttered menu is most detrimental to new users of your site, it could also affect returning customers. Even though many repeat visitors will be there for the same thing they were the first time, people eventually branch out to new products or services. If these loyal customers can’t find what they’re looking for, they’ll become just as likely to leave your site and look elsewhere.
Be sure not to overdo the simplistic design, though. A navigational bar that doesn’t have enough info can be just as bad as a crowded one. Your visitors will have no idea where to find anything on your site.
Categorize When Necessary
In order to give your customers enough info without overloading them, you need to implement a category system. This helps hide the complexity while still providing the directory links necessary for easily navigating the site. For example, if you sell multiple types and brands of shoes on your site, you don’t want to list them all off in a way that seems overwhelming. Instead, you should have a footwear tab that shows all these subcategories when users highlight it with their mouse.
Use More Than One Menu
Even with the category strategy, there will be times when your primary navigational pane becomes too much. Maybe it has too many tabs, or each tab’s subcategories take up too much of the webpage. If this ever happens, you can find small ways to trim the fat, but your best solution will be to create a secondary menu.
This can be a sidebar menu that follows the user down the side of the page, or you can place them down in the footer of each page. Sidebars are great for expanding much further into the various subcategories of a larger one, while footers are best for “About Us,” FAQ, and blog pages. Pretty much anything that regular site users won’t need access to frequently will work in a footer menu.
Don’t Forget Vital Elements
Even though the previous components are all you truly need to have a user-friendly navigational bar, that doesn’t mean there aren’t other aspects you can add to make the experience even better for your visitors. A simple one to start with is making the logo in the pane link back to the home page. When trying to simplify things, you should know that the home page tab is one of the first places most people go. However, if they don’t enter your site through the home page, they’ll probably want to reach it by clicking your logo. So your logo should be there for branding purposes and so that people can return to the home page intuitively.
Another easy way for people to quickly return to the home page is through a secondary navigational pane, or as it’s better known, the breadcrumbs bar. Some website owners skip these because most people use the back button to return to previous pages. However, if a user came to your site through a subcategory page and wants to see what came before it, they’ll need a breadcrumbs pane. These are also useful if your website is quite expansive and can send users four to five pages deep into a category.
Also, don’t forget search bars. These can help reduce excess in your navigation pane since people can simply search for the pages they’re looking for. However, don’t remove vital tabs when you include a search bar. Most users will still use those to travel around your site.
Be Predictable and Consistent
The last tip we have is to be predictable and consistent. When including all these components, website creators start to realize that their navigational bars resemble the ones on just about every other website. That’s okay. If people can more easily predict where to look for elements of your site, they’ll be more likely to discover them, leading to a much more fluid user experience.