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12 Website Navigation Guidelines

sitemapRecent studies indicate we bloggers now have as few as 30 seconds to impress or lose the attention of a visitor. While there is no one correct way to move visitors around your site good web design means easy navigation for all visitors. 

Intuitive Website Navigation

It’s critical. If your site navigation isn’t intuitive then all the hard work you do to promote your content is for nothing, as visitors these days scan content quickly, and they won’t return if they can’t immediately locate what they want.

Know that the design of a website’s navigation has a bigger impact on success or failure than almost any other factor. It affects traffic and search engine rankings. It affects conversions and user-friendliness. Everything important about your website is connected to the navigation, from content to the URLs. — Are You Making These Common Website Navigation Mistakes?

October 19, 2013 update

Below are some points to consider from The Complete Guide to Mastering Your Link and Navigation Structure

  • Should your navigation be on the top, the side, or a combination of both?
  • Should you include only main categories or sub-categories as well?
  • Should you use drop down or fly out menus?
  • Do you have enough room to fit your key pages in the navigation?
  • If not, what should be moved “off” the main navigation?
  • What other information needs to be presented in the navigational area?

12 Website Navigation Guidelines

road signsStructuring a reader and search engine friendly site with intuitive navigation is critical to retaining readers.  That means you want your site to make good use of HTML5, CSS3 and JavaScript to provide a smooth visitor experience.  Begin by selecting a clean minimalistic theme and avoid adding any clutter.

The mobile explosion has yet to crest but visitors  accessing our blogs via mobiles and tablets is on the rise and affecting on blog design. Laptops, smartphones and tablets are performing tasks that used to be the desktop computer territory. Our blogging future will feature responsive width themes, infinite scroll and effective use of custom menus, page templates and post formats. — Mobile Friendly Theme or Responsive Width Theme?

1.    Do be sure the Main Navigation Bar appears on every page in the site to enable visitors to easily access specific sections or pages.   The navigation bar is the most important tool for providing access to website content. It’s usually positioned horizontally across the top of the site but it can be located in left sidebar. (Note: Forgo the addition of any other toolbars, and/or pop-ups or pop-unders to reduce distraction and annoyance.)

2.   Do include a “Home” button in the Main Navigation Bar so visitors can click it on any page on the site to quickly return to the front page.

3.   Do reduce lengthy page and section titles by altering page and post slugs to create short title tabs in plain language in Main Navigation Bar.

4.   Don’t use icons in Main Navigation Bar, as search engine spiders and crawlers do not read text in images and images increase page loading time.

5.   Don’t overload the Main Navigation Bar with too many top level tabs. Fly-out menus or drop-down menus can be used to access sub-sections and sub-pages.

6.   Do include a sitemap tab in the Main Navigation Bar.

7.   Do include an About Us and Contact Us tabs in the Main Navigation Bar. Create a secure a contact form on your About page or a separate page so visitors can contact you, without you providing an email address that spam bots can harvest.

8.   Do include a Popular Posts tab in the Main Navigation Bar to quickly guide new visitors to your most popular articles.

9.    If applicable, include a Tutorials, How-to or Freebies tab  in the Main Navigation Bar to quickly guide new visitors to those pages.

10.  Provide a search box.

11.  Insure links are easily distinguishable from regular text.

12.  Don’t clutter.  When it comes to sidebars and areas for widgets less is more. Display awards and anything else of  no navigational use to visitors on a static page.

Improving Website Navigation

There are more websites on the internet today than there are people on the planet. Hence, in this information age it’s not surprising that digital overwhelm has led to scanning and speed reading.

If you consider your own response when visiting websites,  then you won’t be surprised to know 76% of consumers say the most important factor in a website’s design is “the website makes it easy for me to find what I want”.

Intuitive web design means that when a visitor clicks into a site they know exactly what to do to locate content of interest to them. Minimal clicking to take where visitors where they want to go is the objective.

Strong site navigation makes it easy for visitors to quickly find the information that interests them, sans a potentially frustrating “hunt.” It also helps search engines index your important information efficiently and effectively. … Conversely, poor navigation does more harm than good. It confuses visitors and sends them scurrying for the exit. — 6 Easy Ways To Improve Your Site’s Navigation

I have posted my 12 website navigation guidelines above.  Now, I’m eager to have you readers add to them in the comments below this post, so please don’t hesitate to do so.

Related posts:

Better Blogging at Pages and Posts
Custom Menus Arrive at custom menu walk-through

24 thoughts on “12 Website Navigation Guidelines

  1. Have an issue on A couple of weeks ago I checked a box to “send an email” if anyone replied to a post. After more emails than I wanted I attempted to stop the emails coming to me. I followed the instruction in Dashboard>Settings>Dicussion to uncheck
    “E-mail me whenever” boxes. None has a check mark but the emails keep coming. Anyone have some idea about how I may overcome this?


  2. Resist The Tyranny Of Widgets!! Just because they exist doesn’t mean you have to use them!!

    (This is, of course, a corollary of the most important rule: Don’t Clutter… : )

  3. I am a new WordPress User. A self-taught HTML4 guy who has a very simple Website published: For many years I had a Guestbook on the site, that I titled “Forum”. It was hacked into recently and sadly I had to deactivate it. It was the only communication tool we had for a Canadian Army Veterans Association, whose youngest members are in their 60’s.

    Without boring everyone here I will say that, having been lead to just this month, I’ve managed to publish I’m pleased to be able to offer this as a service to our members. I’m still experimenting so you may see me back here seeking help and advice but basically it is doing what I want it to do. Of course, I’m always open to suggestions for improvement.

    I do find help on WordPress > Support and > Forums, but this Blog is most informative and keeps things simple enough for me to understand [mostly]. So thank you “Time Thief” and all who contribute here.

    Nil Sine Labore

    • Hi Sophie,
      I’m sorry you had to wait for me to answer. I have had a busy week. Don’t ever become so fixated on perfection that you lose the fun of blogging. Do what you feel is right for you.

  4. I need a help of my site while adding any background image to my site it doesn’t fix exactly the left side of the template will merge with the image cause non linear shape of the template on the left hand side alone. anyone please resolve the problem encountered for me.

  5. Thank you for helping me on the WordPress Support Forum. Happy to have your assistance and glad to have the link to your blog. This is great reading for a beginner or advanced blogger. Thanks again!

  6. thanks for the post,even though they seem obvious,for some bloggers it does not seem obvious to others.I use a minimalistic theme, that my readers appreciate, and find user friendly!

  7. Thank you for these tips! It was validating to see that I’m already doing most of them, after years of blogging and learning, as well as reading helpful and giving people like you.

    One thing I’ve added to my navigation bar, instead of a ‘Popular Posts’ link, is a tab called ‘What’s on this blog?’. It’s a dropdown, with 7 pages linked underneath, each featuring a different topic that I write about on my blog: Meditation, Healing, Being Psychic, Grounding, etc. There are nearly 300 posts on my site, and I wanted to both inspire people to read stuff from way back, and to make it easier for them to find articles. I’ve linked some of the top posts in each category on those pages. I originally did this because I was frustrated by how many good articles seemed to be lost in the past. It makes it easier for me too!

  8. I agree that less is more. Having a mobile, I now understand how frustrating it is to either wait for the page to load or to click small widgets that escape your fingers. This is a helpful post.

  9. Thanks, good tips that sounded obvious once id read it! I’ve already de-cluttered a little, think I may rethink and do some more…!

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