Effective Web Navigation
Navigation is how your visitors get around from one page to another on a website. Navigation provides movement and gives your visitors the chance to find other elements of your website. You need to make sure that the structure of your website (the information architecture) makes sense so that your customers aren't forced to simply use search.
Information architecture is the structure of your website. You need to define your site's information architecture before you start to plan your navigation,.
Some common structure elements on a corporate or business web page are:
- About - information about the company
- Products - the products or services the company sells
- Investor Relations - information specific to investors
- Support - help for customers
Some common structure elements on a personal web page are:
- About Me - information about the page author
- Friends and Family - information about the author's friends and family Organization
- Favorite Links - links that the author likes
After your website architecture is confirmed, you need to think how to organize it. Either have it all live in one directory, and just link to the major pages from your home page or have all the sub-pages separated into directories.
Flow charts and storyboards can assist you map out exactly how you would like to encourage your visitors to use the website.
Once you have an idea of the architecture and organization, you're ready to think about the design of the navigation. There are several things you should consider in determining on your navigation design:
If you want to use images for your navigation, make sure that there is some text associated with them. " Mystery Meat Navigation" is the use of non-descriptive images as navigation, and it's much more common than you might think.
Keep your navigation meaningful. Make the links clear - don't try to get cute or use terms that are internal to your organization. Someone who has never been to your website before should know immediately where the link will take them.
Your navigation should appear on every page of your site. While you don't need to have identical navigation, the basic structure should be the same throughout the site, with changes used only to indicate location within the hierarchy.