Effective site navigation is a key component of a website. Navigation has a bigger impact on success or failure than almost any other factor. It’s what guides your visitors through your site and makes it easier for them to find what they are looking for. Before looking a various areas of navigation, here are a few things to keep in mind.
Best practices for Effective Site Navigation
- Navigation should be easy. Users are used to finding navigation in the same place on websites. They expect to find horizontal navigation across the top or vertical navigation down the left or right side.
- Keep it Consistent. It should appear in the same location on every page (with some exceptions to the homepage). The colors and fonts should be the same.
- Labels need to be descriptive. The name of your categories should revolve around Keywords, fewer generic labels better. Read our post Site Structure for Navigation and SEO for more on this.
- Navigation sections should be limited. In general, 2 – 7 sections in your main navigation. To many sections may just leave a user confused with too many choices.
- Use links, not buttons. Links are search friendly – buttons are not. Also, they are more work to change if you update your site.
Keeping these basic ideas in mind, let’s look at different areas and ways to add effective site navigation.
Effective Site Navigation – Areas and Practices
On most sites there are four main areas of navigation. The top area of the site or header, the middle main body section of the site where you put your content, a sidebar on the right or left side and the footer. You can see these areas on the image to the right. Each of these areas offer different advantages for different navigation elements.
The header area of your site should have your logo and the global navigation for your site. The header will show on all pages of your site. Typically your logo is hyper-linked to your homepage. Linking it somewhere else will only confuse users. This area should have your main menu, normally horizontal and using sections labeled to represent key areas of your site. 2-7 sections are common. If you have secondary navigation for your site it goes here to. This is either done with a second navigation bar, or with drop downs that appear when your mouse hovers over an item. It’s also common to see links to your social media pages here too.
The Main Body
This main content area of your site is the most overlooked section when it comes to navigation. If you write a long post adding on-page navigation can speed the user to areas of the post that are of most interest. You can also add related posts from your site. Since every page should have a clear call to action, why not add an banner add to lead the user to a specific product or service on your site. WordPress offers two ways to create structure with the use of categories and tags. Categories are hierarchical and you can have multiple categories and sub-categories. Tags are not structured. Although Google doesn’t use them for ranking anymore, they can be helpful for the internal search of your site.
The sidebar area of your site typically has a number of lists, widgets or banner navigation items. It’s a great place to add a search bar for your site. This is where you can show the categories for your post, not to many that it overwhelms users, but the most important main categories. You could add a widget that shows your most popular or most recent posts. Adding a product or service banner linked to that particular product or service is a great way to get more traffic to them.
The footer area is where you can put the rest of your information and links. This can have your copy-write information, contact information, an email sign-up form. Links that are not someplace else can be added here. If you don’t have links to your social media pages in the header you can add them here. The footer will show up on all pages so with links it can create traffic to other important areas of the site and add to effective site navigation.