At the end of the day, when we come to the internet for something, it’s usually information. The latest price of the device you’ve been lusting after. The phone number of the restaurant you’d like to make reservations at. The name of the historical figure you’ve forgotten. We live in a world where almost every piece of info we could want is available to us, if only we can find it.
We have search engines to help us with the initial plunge, but once someone’s landed on a site, the next crucial element in information delivery is the menu. Which is why it’s surprising that web site navigation often gets ignored or glossed over in favor of more “exciting” design elements.
But ignoring the effectiveness and clarity of your menu can have dire effects on your site’s ability to deliver anything of use to the people who visit it. So don’t! Instead, follow these handy tips on making your site’s menu marvelous.
When a visitor looks at your website for the first time, it should be absolutely clear to them how to proceed. This means you want to be as specific as possible to what you offer and what your potential visitors might be looking for. Avoid using generic menu terms like “Services” or “Products”, and instead use terms that make it clear what types of products or services you offer. The menu item “Videos” isn’t nearly as useful as an item that describes what’s in the videos, like “Tutorials”.
Your menu design should also be clear. It should stand out on the page and say, “I am a menu!” If the design of your menu is so subtle that people aren’t quite sure about what to do with it, or have to search the page to find it, it’s failing you.
Keep It Consistent
Sure, your site’s navigation should be consistent with your brand and the design of the site, but it should also be consistent in the way it presents information and across each page of your site. It should be visually clear what is primary navigation and what is secondary. If you must put non-clickable things in your menu — like headers for sub-sections of a mega-menu — than it should be obvious from a glance which things are links and which aren’t.
Don’t cram your menu full of everything you can think of. In fact, if you can, keep it under seven items. Why seven? It’s been shown that our brains have a much easier time retaining groups of information when they contain seven or fewer items. If you must have more than seven items, try breaking them into groups. Remember that the fewer items you have, the more prominent the items that remain will seem. So the less menu items you use, the more powerful the ones that remain will become. Additionally, the order of your menu items is important. Items at the front of the list will carry more weight at the back.
Use Less Layers
When considering your site’s navigation, you want to make sure that anything can be reached without having to click too many times. Avoid creating “deep” menus, with many nested pages that require a visitor to click many times to “dig” down to the info they need. Instead, create broad “flat” menu structures that keep everything within one or two clicks from the main navigation.
Alrighty! You are now armed with the knowledge you need to make your menu marvelous. Now go, and deliver your information to the world! Still need some getting that navigation as spiffy as possible? Give the design team at Solamar a shout, we do it right.