Good Web Site Navigation - Reaching The Information Instantly

Creating good web site navigation is the most important task a web designer has to accomplish in the web design process. Web site navigation is the pathway people take to navigate through sites. It must be well constructed, easy to use and intuitive. Poor navigation does not help users and often, your site can prove to be less accessible than others.

Good navigation is fundamental to good web design - in both business and informational sites - users should be able to find information easily. If the navigation is not easy to use or intuitive users will quickly go elsewhere in search of information. We often see ourselves in front of web sites without knowing what to do next. The navigation is so well hidden or disguised that the some users simply dont know how to use it. Navigation is the single most important element in creating accessible and usable web sites.

Checklist and key points to consider when designing navigation

Think and act like the average user does. Then design.

The most frequent issue in web design is that designers do not act and do not try to experience web sites from the user perspective. They are often misled to think that their web site's navigation is the best when in fact it might not be. They might only have that impression for the simple fact that they're familiar with it.

It would be useful to open up a few sites and take a look at the web site navigation, how it's positioned, how easy it is to go through etc. Consider how many pages you can access from any page. Can you go to related pages? Are there hints to help users navigate? Is there a site map with all the pages in the website? Can you figure out where you are at any time?

Design good primary web site navigation

Although primary navigation is very important users should not be forced to rely heavily on primary navigation but rather be able to use smaller "doorways" to jump to related pages.

Design good secondary navigation

Links which do not belong in the primary navigation are used to make up the secondary navigation. Such links are the usual Contact Us, About Us, Privacy Policy, Terms of Use, Site Map, Links and so on.

Position of the secondary navigation does not have a general rule

Text menus to help users

Text menus can be used as primary navigation but they can also be used as an additional navigation method. Often the text menu is placed at the bottom of the page. By the time you finish reading relatively long pages the main menu may be out of sight, a text menu in the page footer proves to be a solid navigation alternative for users who get easily confused or wish to save time.

Internal linking

One important aspect of navigation is internal linking between the pages. One can place links to other pages within the site in the actual body text of the page. This can help users find related information quickly. Internal linking can also help search engine spiders to find their way to every single page. For example, if you're talking about text based browsers link the word browsers to a related page like a glossary for instance.

Placing a small set of links just below the text to related pages or resources is also a very successful way to interlink pages of similar interest.

Reasons against intricate, overly modern navigation

When designing for users it is important to give them what they expect. Web designers should not confuse matters by using funky, intricate navigation no matter how cool it might be. Users do not like to be kept away from the information they are after. They do not have the patience or time to discover and learn navigation, it should be instinctive and instantly clickable. Complicated and difficult to use navigation makes users feel uneasy and apprehensive about a web site. They are likely to leave the site to go somewhere else where they feel welcome and where they can easily find what they're looking for. It's very important to prevent that from happening.

Web site navigation checklist

Testing web site navigation

In order to test web site navigation have inexperienced users navigate through the web site. If they find it intuitive to use then so will more experienced users. It means that the web site is a navigational success.

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