Have you ever gone exploring, only to come to a neat little town and have no idea where to go or what to find because there are no street signs? Worse yet, there are a bunch of “things to do 5 miles this way or 3 miles that way” and you wonder which way you should go. Ugh!
That’s how your visitors feel when they visit your website, and you’re spewing choice after choice at them without any real direction.
If your website visitor can’t find the answer to their problem or what they’re looking for quickly, your website is failing its purpose.
Here are a couple of common mistakes and how to right the wrong.
Problem: You Have Too Many Choices Or Your Menu Is Vague
Does your menu list every possible page on your site or contain so many sub-menu items that it looks like the grocery shopping list instead of a way to quickly move around your site? If so, you might have a problem.
When your visitor lands on your site can they look at your menu and immediately know where to find the solutions to their problem (it’s all about them you know!)? Or do they find navigation to everywhere without direction they are looking for?
Imagine this; you’re standing at a fork in the road and right smack in the middle are signs for cool things to the left, geeky things straight ahead and must-see things to the right. Which way should you go? And why is cool better than geeky or must-see? Where is all of the information???
If you can’t tell me where to go or the reason why I might miss out on something extremely helpful, I just may not come back again.
Solution: Keep Your Site Navigation Menu As Simple As Possible
You should NOT include everything and the kitchen sink. Your main navigation should be five things, seven max. The main navigation choices should be clearly labeled and make sense to your visitor. Multi-level navigation is not the answer either because hundreds of links are too much (and just plain overwhelming).
Be clear on your navigation text
Use commonly used terms as labels such as Home, About, Services, Start Here, and Contact. Also, make sure your navigation labels are descriptive because generic labels like Products and Services don’t communicate much to the visitor.
Let’s take Start Here. When most see this choice they know this is the place to be next, hence the start here phrase. On this page, you should tell them what to expect and use on-page links to guide them further into your site and to finding the solution.
You may be a coach who is also a speaker and an author. Using Start Here will allow you to funnel your potential clients into the area they need.
Not only does clear wording help your visitor but it helps the search engines too. Pro-Tip, plan your navigation with search engines in mind and terms your visitors will use.
Use Sub-Navigation only if it makes sense
Drop down menus are not recommended by many because they’re hard to crawl by the search engines, and it can be annoying to your visitor. Why? Because we move our eyes faster than we move our mouse. Usually, we move our mouse once we’ve made a choice and decide to click.
But if it makes it easier for the user to jump right to the solution, then sub-navigation is an option. Let’s use an author site as an example. One of their nav options may be Books, so when you land on that page, it lists all their books and information on each. But wouldn’t it be helpful for returning users to be able to easily find the newest released book?
A sub-menu would show them the list of options. Under the primary category would be their choices that lead directly to a recognizable item. BOOKS >> Book 1, Book 2. Book 3 But, you wouldn’t use that to list everything related to the book. BOOKS >> Book 1, Book 2, Book 3, Ratings, Resources, Reviews.
See how quickly you can overwhelm someone.
Problem: Readers Don’t Know What They Should Do Next
Does your home page look like an obstacle course of buttons, choices, menus, and links?
Navigation isn’t limited to the menu bar at the top of the page or in the sidebar. If your site is not structured in a helpful way, your reader will wander aimlessly through your site, get confused, irritated and leave feeling disappointed and frustrated.
When this happens, it reminds me of walking into that super cool variety store everyone is talking about. It has everything people say. But all you see are aisles and “stuff”. You have no idea where to start first. So you start walking, and shiny object syndrome comes into play. You get overwhelmed and walk out thinking that “the super cool” shop kinda sucks.
Solution: Look At Your Site With A Fresh Set Of Eyes
First things first, if you can’t objectively look at your site like you were visiting it for the first time then grab some outside help to do it for you.
Use headings, subheadings, and lists as they were meant to be used. Make your site easy to scan and understand and most importantly, make sure everything is clean and uncluttered.
Make your site easy to scan and understand and most importantly, make sure everything is clear and uncluttered.
Begin with a clear starting point
Give your visitor a clear starting point in the “above the fold” area. One Action. One Item. Think about something like “Get Started,” “Learn More” or “Book Now”. Not all three but ONE. And the most important one at that. What is your money maker? If your first step is to get them on the phone then lead them to book now. If you need names on a list, signup here works. If you’re building trust, learn more.
Still stumped? Crazy Egg and heat maps will show you what your visitors are doing once they land on your page. This is helpful to find things that are poorly labeled or confusing.
Use action words in your site navigation
A 2014 study found that links that take the form of an action “enhance usability”. Similar to being clear on navigation terms, you need to be clear on your actions that lead to the next choice. For example, page navigation is different than the navigation bar and should make sense to the flow of the process.
Let’s say your primary call to action is to lead them to your blog, tell them to “read more articles” or “visit the blog now”. Or maybe you want them to book that appointment, so try “schedule with me now” or “find a time to chat”.
Do what makes sense to your flow and their problem.
Bonus Action: Fix Broken Links
You can have the best navigation in the world but if the links to the pages are broken it will surely piss off your visitor. Broken links can impact your SEO, too.
Here’s a handy tool to help you check your site. Don’t worry if it finds some; we’ve all been there!
Regularly check the links in your navigation and on your website. If they are broken, replace them or redirect them to another area on your site.
Great site navigation comes down to two things: Keep It Simple + Keep It Actionable.
Need help with your site navigation or how to get started with these simple fixes? Schedule a clarity session today.