When designing a website, it can be easy for someone to confuse the concept of exciting designs, with practical ones. People tend to think that if visitors find your website interesting, it will automatically result in conversions and higher brand recognition. In reality this couldn’t be further from the truth.

People crave intuitive paths when visiting a website, and intuitive paths are also often established ones. People expect to use it the way they use other sites, and that expectation is something that needs to be taken into account.

But what is a logical navigational structure? Often, it just has to do with making everything on your site easy to find and ensuring people know where they are. Below, we explore some simple tips for website navigation.

Consistency

If you set up a clear pattern of navigation on your website, make sure this pattern is present in all aspects of your website. Constantly changing your navigational structure on each page will only serve to confuse visitors and cause frustration as they try to figure out the new structure again, causing an increase in site abandonment.

Categorise Obviously

Visitors can be put off if they enter one of your categories and have trouble locating the sub-category they want. It’s important to firstly, always make your various sections and subcategories are visually obvious on the page and secondly, ensure that the subcategory pages can be easily distinguished from primary category pages.

Clickability

It seems like an obvious piece of advice but many websites make the mistake of listing their subcategories and subsections without making the list clickable at all. That is to say, they don’t link these pieces of text to their relevant pages.

Don’t make this mistake. It will either result in the visitor thinking that the process is too much effort or that the pages don’t exist at all.

Explanatory Link Text

When a user clicks on a link, they do so because they have some interest in what they believe it leads to. This is a result of what the link text indicated it was linking to. Always make sure that your link text is an accurate description of what page the link is pointing to. A mistake in this area can really impact conversion rates, particularly if the visitor abandoned the previous page for the inappropriately titled one.

ALT Tags

ALT titles are the tiny bits of descriptive text that are attached to objects that don’t have indexable text content, such as pictures. It displays when a user hovers over the object

If you attach a link to one of these objects, it’s important that the alt tag properly describes what the user will find on the other side of that link.

Effective Site Search Functionality

It’s always a good idea to have site search functionality on your sites, particularly for large websites. Google offers the add-on to websites for free. But if you do choose to include it, it’s important that it contributes to the navigation rather than serving as another frustration.

Try to add value the visitors search. It doesn’t even hurt to suggest other content to them that isn’t necessarily affiliated to your website but might contribute to their query.

Observation and Tests

The only real way of measuring the effectiveness of any of your design changes is by analysing your results. You can do this by going to other successful websites in your industry and taking note of what about their navigational structure you find superior and where their shortcomings lie and comparing these to your site.

A/B and multivariate testing [link to article] are also effective analytical methods to figure what exactly your website’s problem might be.