Two-Minute Guide to Website Navigation

By Wendy Covey | CEO and Co-Founder

Website navigation and information architecture are two of the most important elements when designing your website, and need to be defined in the early stages of the web project. Why?

  1. Visitors come to your site for a specific reason. Website navigation is the visitor's guide to navigate through your website and to quickly and easily find what they’re looking for.
  2. Navigation helps to state the purpose of your website. It is a vital tool for your visitors to wade through your website, helping them arrive where you want them to be, and to take action.
  3. For Search Engine Optimaztion (SEO) purposes, you want all your pages to be crawled and indexed by search engines. Website navigation helps search engine spiders find their way through your website and to every single page you have to offer.

Website Navigation

People enter a website either by typing in the URL or through search engines, links from other websites, links provided via email or documents, or bookmarks. Although websites are often entered through the homepage, any other page may be a possible entry point to your website. It is therefore important that users easily find their way around your website from every and any page.

This can be achieved by adding search functionality to your site as well as by integrating well constructed and easy to use navigation.

Information Architecture and Site Mapping

Information architecture (IA) is the art of expressing a model or concept of information used in activities that require explicit details of complex systems, such as programming, library and content management systems, or web and database development. Information Architecture in web development describes methods of organizing and labeling websites.

A common menthod of organizing and labeling websites is creating a site map. Taking into account the purpose and the audience of your website, we collaborate with you to visually document your website plan by creating a prototype or site map of your website. This site map contains categories of content and depicts the relationship between individual sections and pages.

Advantages:

  1. By utilizing a detailed site map, we can efficiently and clearly communicate web strategy and plan with all stakeholders – business, marketing strategists, programmers, and designers.
  2. The process of creating a site map serves as a checklist and planning tool during the design process of your website.
  3. The site map may be added to your website and allows for users and search engines to easily locate and index all relevant pages of your website.

As we begin to create your site map, here are a few considerations:

  • Your content should be organized for your target audience segments, not for you.
  • Think usability, speed, and efficiency. Studies show that most users will not click more than three links to get to the information they want.

 

Example of a Basic Web Sitemap

After the site map is complete, the next consideration is how site navigation will be designed. Here are some typical ways that website navigation is implemented.

Primary Navigation

The primary navigation contains the most important, top-level links, such as Home, Products/Services/Programs, News, Events, and About. The navigation is often located on the top or left side of the page.

Secondary Navigation

The secondary navigation is designed to be less prominent than the Primary Navigation and contains helpful categories of information that are often a sub-set of the primary navigation. Some examples of this are applications, product families, or programs. Secondary navigation items are usually located directly under the Primary Navigation, on the left hand side of the home page, or drop-down menus from the primary navigation.

Example of Secondary Web Navigation - winemantech.com

Tabbed Navigation

A new trend in secondary navigation is to utilize tabs. The advantage of tabbed browsing is that you can house much information within what feels to the user as one page. Tabs navigation is a very helpful tool for technical companies that need to covey product benefits, specs, and pricing within every product page.

Bottom Navigation

The bottom navigation often contains a replica of the top or side navigation and operational links such as Contact Us, Privacy Policy, Terms of Use, and a Site Map.

Internal Linking

Internal Linking between pages helps users find related information and explore additional opportunities (up-sell/cross-sell opportunities), and helps search engines crawl your website and index all relevant pages.

A classic example is Amazon’s “Customers Who Bought Items Also Bought…”.

Breadcrumbs

Breadcrumbs are a graphical representation of where you are on the site and which page you came from, i.e. Home > News & Events > Events. This pathway is usually located at the top left under the header.

Buttons

If your site offers an online store, you may want to place individual order buttons throughout your site. Other popular use of buttons include "Contact Me" and "Donate Now."

Are you planning to create or redesign your website? Contact TREW Marketing to get started today.

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Wendy Covey

CEO and Co-Founder

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