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Dos and Don'ts of User-Friendly Website Navigation

Posted by Danny Fong on April 26, 2013 at 2:25 AM


Good, intuitive navigation is arguably the most important element of a successful website. If visitors come to your website and they’re unable to find what they want, they’re going to leave, and all the splashy homepages and cool graphics in the world won’t bring them back

So today we’re going to talk about the basic Dos and Don’ts of user-friendly web navigation for your personal or small business website.


Do make your navigation easy to find.


Don’t hide it in a complex design or have it appear only when the user performs a behavior (like rolling over a specific tab to make it pop out).


Do make it easy to operate.


Don’t use complicated animations or make the user hover carefully and move their mouse from one option to the other juuust so. Secondary navigation that disappears when you’re trying to mouse over to it is instantly frustrating.


Do keep it consistent.


Don’t move it around or add/remove options to the fit the design or space constraints of each individual page. Also make sure you call each link exactly the same thing no matter where the user is in the site. With builders like Webs SiteBuilder3, navigation is automatically global, which will keep you from making these mistakes.


Do tell them where they are.


Don’t leave people hanging and cause them to click the page they’re already on because they’re not sure if they’re currently reading “about us” or “contact us”. Have the current page change text or background color in the navigation to indicate this.


Do tell them where they came from (and how to get back).


Don’t assume that your user remembers how they arrived at the page showing the red women’s sale jacket. Though not required, leaving a trail of breadcrumbs for users is always appreciated. Such as small text above the content that reads:

Sale > Women’s > Jackets > Red Trench coat


Do use one level of navigation if you can, but multiple if you need to.


Don’t have a ridiculously long or crowded navigation bar if you have lots of pages to link to. Though one level is preferable, having two (or maybe three) levels is a good way to organize and prioritize information if you have a lot. But never go deeper than three…if you require more than that, you need to go back and re-organize your site.


Do provide a search box.

No matter how good a job you’ve done with the suggestions above, don’t assume you’ve done so well that everyone is sure to find what they want quickly enough to keep them on your site. Provide a search box to prevent impatience and abandonment.


Do conduct usability testing, either by bribing friends/family or through a professional user testing website.


Don’t dismiss the feedback you get because you’ve worked hard and are wedded to what you already created.


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