The number one issue when it comes to easy website navigation is understanding where users are coming from. There can be an enormous gap between how product teams see a website, and how users find them.
HEAP compiled a report that showed that 95% of product teams looking at websites said, yes, they were easy to navigate and no action was needed to improve them. 43% of users however, looking at the same websites, said they were not easy to navigate and needed alteration.
The essential thing to note is the user is the one you need to be addressing, not your product team.
So what is easy website navigation really? When everyone is on the same page about what users are looking for in a simple and effective website journey then you can structure and design a business website that keeps users with you and increases the likelihood of conversions.
We have outlined in this blog what makes a really easy to navigate website so you don’t need to second guess your website design.
What Makes a Website Easy to Navigate?
There are eight key elements you need to plan out in order to give your users a clear line of sight between where they are, and where they are going. Having a clear pathway to what they need next is essential. The last thing you want to do is leave it up to your users to ‘explore’ your site and click their way around hoping to land on something useful.
Remember, your users are here for a reason, they have something they want to achieve. Easy website navigation lets them get to their goal quickly.
1. Content placement
A lot of business owners make the mistake of wanting their website to stand out and be different, so they want to play with menus, page titles and placement to give their users something new and edgy. The problem here is it requires a lot of work from users to learn about your website and figure out what everything is.
An easy website offers exactly what users expect. Navigation bars, content, menus and back buttons need to be placed exactly where they always are, so that a user can find and click what they need without thinking about it. They get to stay on autopilot as they direct themselves around so their focus can be placed on the content - which will be new and interesting.
Make sure you anticipate what information is most useful and offer that up first so your users don’t need to dig through background content to find it.
Think about your target market and map out what they are seeking in advance. Be sure to answer the questions that are most pressing to them first by outlining what problems they are looking to solve and what information they need to solve them quickly. This will give you a clear pathway to help place your content in the most straightforward and helpful way.
2. Use a search tool
Adding a search tool is not decorative, it's a comprehensive and practical way for visitors to quickly and easily narrow down what they need without having to click through multiple menus. This is especially useful for an eCommerce website that contains a wide range of products.
The most important aspect of your search tool is that it provides intelligent and accurate feedback about your site contents and delivers relevant matches that satisfy user expectations. It can’t simply be something placed for fun, it needs to be functional. The second thing you need to consider is making it stand out so users know it’s available.
Here are some ways you can make your search box stand out:
- Put the search box up front - it’s a bonus feature so prioritise its placement
- Use a well-known marker - like a magnifying glass icon
- Make the text space or background a different colour to stand out
- Use placeholder text that can be easily deleted/overridden
- Use language that is inviting like, Search Here
3. Predictable navigation menu
The standard parent pages and titles are
- Contact Us
- About Us
These show up over and over again for one simple reason; they are exactly what they say they are.
Don’t be tempted to swap things around to “match your brand” or offer something different. Users like them because they are safe and familiar, so give them the ease and predictability of knowing what comes next.
Steer clear of riddles and puns and go for titles that are easy to recognise and straightforward.
Be sure to check the clarity of the setup and structure of your navigation menu on mobile devices too. If it doesn’t fit across all screens look for ways you can tighten it up to fit smaller devices or consider adding hamburger menus to provide easier access.
4. Reliable clickable content
Clickable functions need to be placed in ways that it’s obvious that they are clickable and clear where they lead to.
Having links that blend in neatly or connect as part of the artwork might seem visually appealing but it reduces their effectiveness if users have to hunt around or stumble on them by accident.
If you are linking with hypertext, make your anchor text bold by using a contrasting colour and providing an underline. Most links will do this automatically so go with the automated version and don’t override it for something new.
Once again licks and clickables might show differently across different devices so check on your mobile versions to make sure links are clear and easy to access.
5. Contrasting sidebars
If sidebars become camouflaged or blended with content it can be confusing and off-putting to users. This is an especially big issue for websites with visually heavy designs. Make sure you use a strong contrasting colour between your background and the sidebar, or, if that doesn’t fit, add white space to make it apart from your page elements.
6. Introduce multiple action steps
Action steps are handy shortcuts that give readers a jumping point to the next logical sequence in their online journey. It creates fast results and gives them a sense that you are looking after their needs by assisting them to get where they want to go.
You don’t need to wait until the end of your content to add a Call To Action (CTA) button or link. As you introduce your product or service there will be natural points where users have enough facts to make a purchase decision or may want to jump to testimonials or product descriptions. Use these breaks to provide a purchase option or other next step that will be valuable to them.
If a CTA doesn’t suit your product or service type, consider a footer with links, which might suit your audience's needs better.
A good rule is to end each section (at the very least) with two options for your CTA. The first one is for those users ready to buy now. Give them a Primary CTA that takes them directly to their purchase, sign up or contact form. At the same time, offer a n additional option for those who still need a bit more thinking and research time with a Secondary CTA. This click will take them to more info such as testimonials, product information or white papers. The aim is to have the next step ready for them at the end of the page so they can get to your next relevant pages without too much work.
7. Use friendly fonts and scripts
The font you choose is really important, not because it can show personality and heighten your theme but because it displays the information you need your viewers to see. Your website font needs to be clear, well contrasted and easy to read, even if that makes the font style boring.
This can’t be stressed enough for mobile formats. The majority of users search on the go, meaning you need to cater for an audience who are using small screens and are surrounded by distractions.
Before you commit to a font you think looks good, test for legibility across desktop and mobile devices to make sure it is easy to read, showing as size 12 or higher and the headings are not so big that they are broken across the screen.
8. Add in a Sitemap
Your sitemap is more comprehensive than a menu bar, footer or sidebar and can give not only your users a clear overview and links to any page, but it’s also useful for search engines gathering your site data as well.
A site map is your chance to cover everything you offer in one small pocket. This way if you have missed something your users are looking for specifically, it’s easy for them to navigate there, no matter what it might be.
It’s well worth getting audits on sitemaps clicks from time to time to see if there are patterns to user use, if so you might need to bring the pages or information they are searching higher up in your online journey pathway to make it easily accessible from a home page or sidebar.
Making your website easy to navigate is critical when you consider that when given a choice between two website options 89% of consumers choose the one that is easiest to use. If you don’t get the navigation right, your users will quickly leave and search for a better web experience through a competitor.
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