Website Navigation

Navigating Through the Grocery Store is the Same as Navigating Through a Website.

  • Navigation affects traffic: how high you’ll rank, how much traffic you’ll get from search
  • Navigation affects conversions: how easy the site is to use, what percentage of visitors convert into leads and customers

I’ve been shopping at this particular Meijer every week for about seven years. I know where the groceries and products are located and I could probably walk blindfolded to many things I commonly buy. But what if I normally shop at Kroger and this was my first trip to Meijer? How overwhelmed would I be? Meijer is huge and the store sells everything from milk and paper products to bathing suits and auto supplies. If this were my first trip I would be utterly overwhelmed by the variety of products and the size of the store. Meijer has obviously considered this because their ceiling provides an easy to use map of the store layout and it quickly navigates you to core locations (or departments) within the store. Need baby products or kitchen supplies? There is a sign for both and they even offer an image for those of us frantically looking for diapers in a late night store run. Think about how convenient and customer friendly this is for visitors.

These are design ideas and tips along with examples of what to do (and what not to do) with your website’s menu.

1. Be descriptive

  • Descriptive labels in your navigation are good for search engines
    The navigation bar is a key place to indicate relevance to search engines. Since your navigation appears on every page, descriptive label shows Google that you are truly about that topic.
  • Descriptive labels in your navigation are good for visitors
    Your navigation bar is visually prominent, so it communicates instantly. When it lists your main products or services, it will be obvious, at a glance, what your company does up front, so they’ll know they’re in the right place.

2. Avoid format-based navigation

Navigation labels such as “videos,” “photos” and “whitepapers” tell visitors the format of the content, but not the topic. People don’t go to websites looking for videos or whitepapers. They visit websites looking for answers and information.

3. Avoid drop down menus

  • Good for search engines: Drop down menus can be difficult for search engines to crawl. Depending on how they’re programmed, they may lead to problems.
  • Good for visitors: Usability studies show that drop down menus are annoying. Here’s why: visitors move their eyes much faster than they move their mouse. When they move their mouse to a menu item, they’ve likely already decided to click and then you gave them more options. It’s a hiccup in the mind of the visitor.

4. Limit the number of menu items to seven

Fewer items in your navigation are good for search engines
Your homepage has the most “authority” with search engines because more sites link to your homepage than to your interior pages. This authority flows down to deeper pages through your navigation.

5. The order of your website navigation is important

  • Primacy effect: Items at the beginning of a list are more easily remembered.
  • Recency effect: Items at the end of a list (or things that just happened) are more easily remembered.