Did you know that your website navigation could cost you customers? The labels at the top of your website tell visitors where to find the information they’re looking for, but using generic, interchangeable terms or listing too many items, can be a waste of potential! We believe that a better user experience is a matter of making products fun and easy to use.But why does your website navigation have such a great impact on the user experience? What is user experience anyways? And why does it matter at all? In this article, we’ll reveal what the benefits of great and effective navigation design are and how that affects the user experience of your website.We have previously published UX and UI strategies for effective user-friendly web design and a guide on legibility and readability in UX - go check them out to learn more about improvements you can make to your website’s user experience.
What is User Experience?
User Experience (UX for short) is a term that encompasses all experiences that occur as a result of a user interacting with a website or web application. Contributing factors include usability, aesthetics, credibility, desirability and accessibility, amongst others. When someone arrives on your website for the first time, there are four aspects that influence the immediate impression they have of your business:
- What does the visitor see?
- What does the visitor read?
- What have they come to do?
- What do they experience?
By considering all four during the design phase, you’re setting yourself up for success. A great user experience can influence customers in different ways - because first impressions really do count: A website that is not only pretty but intuitive and easy to use, offers a pleasant experience to every visitor. A refined User Experience reduces friction and frustration, boosts user satisfaction and increases conversion rates. And there is more to it.
Why you should care about your website’s User Experience:
- Attention-grabbing, smart UX design can keep users on your website for longer
- A great UX will reflect positively on your brand and improve your online reputation
- When operating in a competitive niche, convenient UX design can help you stand out
- A positive UX will help you make more money by increasing your revenue and ROI
- By increasing customer satisfaction, UX can drive customer loyalty
- By optimising your UX you can increase your Domain Authority, a ranking metric that is used to determine how highly your site ranks on a Search Engine
On the flip side, poor UX design rarely goes unnoticed. Even worse, research shows that users are much more likely to tell friends about a negative experience than a good one.
How Does Your Website Navigation Fit In?
Website navigation is a set of links to internal pages, that is organised into a menu. Ideally, website navigation is structured in a way that allows users to find what they need within three clicks or less. Website navigation as the name suggests, helps users manoeuvre a website. It facilitates the movement around pages, typically from one internal webpage to another. And if someone can’t find what they are looking for, they’re going to jump ship very quickly. You’ve probably experienced this yourself first hand.
How Your Website Navigation Can Affect the User Experience
Have you ever been to a recently remodelled supermarket? You used to frequent it on a weekly basis for years and would have been able to find your favourite products in your sleep. But suddenly everything is new and shiny - and not at all where you’d expect it to be. Bad site navigation is a lot like that.
People will click on a link in Google Search results and land on your page knowing exactly what they need. They also have an expectation on where to find it - because they’ve browsed hundreds, if not thousands of websites, that were all pretty much built in the same way.
Poor Navigation: One of the Pitfalls of User Experience Design
Watch out for the following:
- Unusual menu location
It’s really annoying when you’re shopping for breakfast staples and find that bread and eggs aren’t where you’d expect them. Non-standard menu locations are a lot like that: They can cause a lot of frustration on the customer side. Maybe even so much so, that they choose to shop with a competitor instead. People expect common UX elements to be where most websites place them. We’re creatures of habit. Instead of popping a menu in the middle of a page or other awkward spots, put the navigation where most users expect it to be: At the top or left side of every page.
- Generic menu labels
According to recent research, choosing the right navigation labels is essential. Unfortunately, many websites use vague, generic navigation labels that users have grown accustomed to. Worse, they often hold very little actual meaning for customers. To avoid failure, menu labels need to be as descriptive and clear as possible. Generic labels such as “Products”, “Solution” or “Resources” are too vague to carry meaning and only creates more confusion.So, instead of “Services” use “Digital Marketing Services”, instead of “Solutions” say “Graphic Design Solutions”. This gives visitors navigating your website a better idea of where they might find what they are looking for. It also has another added bonus: It’s great for SEO!
- Too many items are listed on the menu
If you’re in a hurry, it can be a nightmare having to choose between ten different types of peanut butter. The same holds true for jam-packed website menus. Having too many options can be paralysing. Choice, as psychologist Barry Schwartz argues, makes us less likely to take action. Long menu lists dilute the importance of each option. If you don’t want users to be flustered and abandon your website, don’t give them too many options. Instead, limit the number of menu items to fewer than eight to create a better User Experience. This will increase the average time people spend on your site and reduce bounce rates.
- Ignoring analytics
How do you know what users are looking for when they land on your site? What are the most viewed pages, the most clicked menu items? If you don’t know where your strengths and weaknesses lie, you won’t be able to further improve. That’s where Google Analytics enters the stage. Google Analytics can help you streamline your site navigation. For example, behaviour flow reports help you understand page navigation patterns. It tells you three important things: Where most site visitors start, where they go next and when they leave. This might teach you that you have to reduce the number of menu tabs in order to shorten that path to the most popular pages.
How Your Website Navigation Impacts Domain Authority
Domain Authority is a ranking metric used to determine how powerful, trustworthy and authoritative your website is and how highly search engines rank it as a result. The higher you score, the more likely your website is to appear on page one of search results and outrank your competitors. One of many factors search engines use to calculate Domain Authority is the user-friendliness of your website. To boost your Domain Authority, Google recommends keeping your navigation clean and simple. Websites with a messy navigation are overly complicated, which makes the lives of your visitors - both human and bot, a lot harder. With a proper structure, search engines have an easier time crawling and indexing your pages in search results. Here’s another tip for those looking to improve their Domain Authority: Google is a big fan of back and interlinking between pages, both internal and external, too. But you can read more about that here!
Wrapping it up
If you've been underestimating the importance of UX and great navigation design, it’s about time to start viewing your website through a new lens. By fulfilling your users’ needs and expectations, you can create long-lasting customer relationships - and tie people to your brand.Of course, website navigation is just one piece of the puzzle. To learn more about creating exceptional User Experiences, check out our ‘Guide on Web Accessibility: Have you ticked all the boxes?’ If you’d like to chat about how we can help you meet your business goals with web design and development services that convert, give us a call! We’d love to learn more about your project!