By now you probably realize that there is much more to the design of a website than it looking pretty. Usability and the user experience (UX) play a major role in the success of a website. There are even college degrees now focused on UX Design and Testing. Although you will not become an expert in the next 10 minutes, there are definitely some highlights you should keep in mind.
Navigation, in its simplest form, refers to how easy it is for users to move through your website and find specific information. Making navigation as easy as possible for users is important because you want visitors to be able to find the information they are looking for. Not only will they be happier with your website, but they will also be more likely to become an actual customer. If your navigation is too complicated or just not logical, they might get frustrated and leave for another site. You want them to stay on your website as long as possible and see every part of it. Aside from keeping users happy, this actually helps your search engine ranking.
Navigation is not only about the main menu of the website; there are numerous different ways users can navigate your site. For instance, you may consider secondary sidebar links or a top menu at the top of the header. There are also limitless ways to incorporate hyperlinks into your text.
No matter which methods you incorporate, always try to follow the three-click rule. This means that no matter what a visitor is looking for, they should be able to get to it in three clicks or less. Do not bury information in hidden hyperlinks on a bottom-level page. You also do not want to create a navigation menu with too many levels. Visitors should not have to solve a puzzle while hopping up and down on one foot in order to receive the information they are requesting.
So how do you make your navigation user-friendly?
There are many different methods to doing this. At Kevin Brown Design, we like to take all the information that we want to display on a site and create a sitemap. This allows us to categorize similar information and use that to figure out the optimal page structure. We recommend a similar practice if you are working on your own site.
Make sure that your menu is easy to find and use. Make sure the font type and color on your menu and on any buttons is easy to read. Make sure that important links and buttons are toward the top of the page so that visitors don’t have to scroll to find them. And, of course, keep in mind that navigation on a phone is different than navigation on a computer.
As with all aspects of your site, make sure the navigation also works for mobile devices or is adjusted specifically for mobile users. Sometimes the order or placement of menus and links might be different for mobile devices to make it easier for people navigating a smaller screen. Even the order of some elements on the page may need to be rearranged for mobile users. Make sure you test each page on a mobile device. You might find there are places where the important buttons and text are visible only after scrolling through unnecessary images and such.
Also consider what needs a mobile user might have that are different from someone sitting at their desk on a computer. One small example that many people overlook is a phone number. It should be easily visible for desktop users who may want to call your company, but for mobile users, it should be an actual link that can auto-dial the company’s number.
Clear calls to action
A call to action, or “CTA,” is basically something that is meant to encourage a user to take some guided action. For instance, if you want to push people to book a free consultation, you may have little boxes or buttons throughout your site encouraging them to do so. They will link directly to the scheduling form or contact form, depending on your process. If you want to push people to enter your online store, you might have some “Shop Now” CTAs sprinkled throughout your site. It is quite common now to have a CTA button right alongside the main menu or somewhere else in the top part of the page, where users can see it without scrolling.
Usually these CTAs are used to direct visitors where *we* (as company owners) want them to go. However, we should also consider the top things that our visitors are looking for. CTAs are only successful if people actually click on them. Sometimes the best way to make this happen is to use them to direct people to the things they are looking for.
Usability is HUGE
There is so much more to usability and UX design; we have only just begun to scratch the surface. We will come back to this subject again in another series. Usability is something that can be constantly improved on your site, but the foundation of it (navigation) is best set up right from the beginning. If you need your current site reviewed for usability or would like us to provide a recommendation for a site map, contact us today.