Navigation structure is a well-known ranking factor. Web crawlers can penalise your pages for long loading times or unintuitive link structures.
Human visitors can be even more particular than that. To keep your conversion funnel tight and reduce your abandonment rate, consider the following tips when designing your website.
Make Navigation Obvious
This doesn’t mean make it obvious to you. Instead you’ll want to consider how someone who knows little about your industry or services, might expect to make their way around a website like yours.
The mental models of consumers can be a hard thing to presume though. Have a look at how other websites like yours’ navigation is structured. This will give you an idea of how people are used to navigating websites like yours, and what might be missing from their navigation.
Include a Top or Side Navigation Bar
Don’t make visitors have to go back to your homepage to visit another section of your website. Keep a navigation bar in the obvious places that you see on almost every site.
If there are multiple pertinent subcategories, you might also want to consider including drop-down menus in the navigation bar. However, although Google is getting better at it, there are some cases in which they struggle to follow drop-down navigation. If you’re internal pages aren’t being found, consider a secondary navigation bar, or links in the sidebar of the site as an alternative to drop-downs.
Make Links to Important Pages Clear
Assess what aspects of your website are most valuable to visitors and make them the most visible, instead of hiding them in subcategories, even if they technically belong there.
Also, make sure the items you include in drop down or fly menu subcategories, or secondary navigation on internal pages, fit logically in those categories.
Users Like to Know Where They’ve Been, Where They Are and How They Got There
Breadcrumbs are a good way to keep people informed of the navigation route they took and what page they’re currently on. So they know how to can get there again after they leave that page.
Recolouring links (traditionally from blue to purple) will show users what they’ve already viewed so they won’t have to waste time clicking on links they already been to.
Brand Pages Clearly
Putting your logo on every page on your domain, which links back to the homepage, lets people who have arrived on certain entry pages on your site through a search engine, know what website they’ve landed on and a quick link to see what the website’s all about.
Sitewide Obvious ‘Home’ and ‘Contact Us’ Links
These should be two of the most distinct links on your website, and present on every page. If a visitor has a problem finding out how they can contact you to do business, then the rest of your conversion funnel has been for nothing.
Keep your phone number on each page for ‘click-to-call’ functionality for mobile users. It’s a good way of drastically shortening the conversion funnel.
Keep in mind though that a prominent number on each page of a site, especially a desktop version of the site, can lead to increased bounce rates and reduced form completions. You might get more calls, but your Analytics data may suffer, as users can theoretically arrive on a landing page, see your number, and abandon the site without clicking anywhere.
Site Search Engine
Your website might be a pillar of navigational perfection but some people who’re unfamiliar the internet might still have a problem finding things.
Including an internal search engine can be a safety net (or rather conversion net) for all those people who still find navigating your site a problem. Google Custom Search offers this service for your site, entirely free of charge.
If you use a site search though, remember that returning a “no results” answer to a search can have a negative effect on users. As so many things, it can come down to a trade-off. Search options are best for big sites with multiple products or services.
Make Logging In and Out Simple
If your site is member based, don’t make it challenging for your users to log in and subsequently log out again.
Remember, logging in can be a vital part of the ‘purchase’ section of the conversion funnel, such as with shopping carts, for example.
Also, watch where you put the requirement. If you make somebody register, don’t do it after they have filled their cart. Or better yet, try to avoid making it compulsory to register if at all possible.