I hate to be the barer of bad news. But your website navigation sucks. Well, maybe not YOURS, but you know, that other guy. The guy whose site has no rhyme or reason to the menu. The site that takes you 16 clicks to get to the information you really want. The site that has one menu scheme on one page, then another, entirely different menu scheme on another page. THAT guy. His (or her) site navigation sucks.
I admit, I’m not a professional web designer (I just play one). But, I think I have enough knowledge and experience on the topic to offer you these tips and pointers.
- Keep it simple. Simplicity never goes out of style. Make your navigation simple. You don’t need a lot of fancy-schmancy bells and whistles. You site should NOT be a way for your web designer to show you how cool a coder he is. Don’t be a guinea pig for his latest scripting tricks. Make sure the links work and visitors can find what they’re looking for.
- Consistency. Use a consistent theme, design and execution.
- Three clicks. Ideally, it should not take more than three clicks from the home page for a visitor to get to the information they want. Whether it’s a video, a photo, your phone number, or whatever. I’ve heard some people say even two clicks. That seems a little too hard to maintain, in my opinion. But, if you can do it in two, all the better.
- No surprises. If I see a link that says “Contact us,” my expectation when I click it is a contact page with contact info. I do NOT expect to have my email program launched. This is one of my pet peeves (especially since I use Gmail). If you wat to put your email link in your navigation, then call it “Email us” not “Contact us.” If there’s a Twitter or Facebook icon in your navigation, the expectation is that it will take me to your Twitter or Facebook page, not have me Tweet or “Like” or share that page. (There are other more appropriate places on the page for that functionality). If you have a link that says “Rates,” then have your rates on that page; NOT a paragraph explaining why your work is custom and for that reason rates are custom, blah, blah, blah. If you don’t want to have rates on your site, don’t explain yourself. Just don’t include them. Your visitors are savvy enough to know that you are probably expensive. If they like your work, they will contact you (unless of course your navigation is so bad they can’t find your contact info. There are sites out there like that. Trust me.)
- Back Buttons & Bread Crumbs. A browser’s back button should not be required when navigating your site. I’ve been on sites where I have to go three pages deep to get to a video, then when I want to get back to the main portfolio page or the sub-category page, there’s no link to then or to any of the pages I clicked to get to the video. First, your main navigation should be on every page so that if I ever get lost, I can at least get back to the main pages. But you could also consider using “bread crumbs.” These are those succession of links next to each other on a navigation menu that show you the path you’ve taken, e.g. Home -> Portfolio -> Video Page.)
- There’s no place like Home. Lastly, make it easy for me to get back to your home page. Whether it’s your logo that links back, or a simple text link that says “Home” (or “Casa” if you want to be clever and make your middle school Spanish teach proud).
Am I missing anything? What tips can you provide to help those guys whose website navigation sucks?
I loved this video by Vincent Flanders of WebPagesThatSuck.com. (Note: he has a bleeped f-bomb in this video).
If you can’t see this video in your RSS reader or email, click here.