7 Navigation Mistakes to Avoid

navigation mistakes to avoid

Navigation is crucial. In fact, it is the most important element of any website as it impacts everything else. Navigation indirectly affects traffic and ranking and directly affects usability and conversion. However, even some of the uninitiated web design companies can’t get it right until now when they know what works and doesn’t in the interweb. Actually, the navigation is one of the most common mistakes committed.

Most common navigation mistakes

Mistake #1 – Deviating from the standard nav style

When a visitor lands on your website, he expects to see the horizontal navigation across the top. Expectations form part of the momentum, which means momentum is lost when what he saw is not aligned to his expectations. That’s the first foray against site usability.

How to avoid:

Make your website easier to use by putting the navigation where your visitors anticipate it to see. Yes, website owners like you are so eager to differentiate themselves from the rest of the competition. However, spare the navigation otherwise, your website will be regarded as “different” for all the wrong reasons. You need not create new conventions on how to view and scrutinize a website; you want to show them your contents and in the easiest way possible.

Mistake #2 – Using common, non-descriptive labels

Even when your nav is at the topmost part of the website, if all it says is “Products” or “Services,” then you are also doing it wrong. Each of the names of the items in your menu is an opportunity to communicate what the company or brand is about. Generic names mean a lost opportunity on your side. They only dilute the relevance of your site since it didn’t match the intention of the user to find information on a particular product on your site, for instance.

How to avoid:

Communicate instantly with your visitors at the brand level. Guide their expectations some more by telling them through the menu names what specific contents those pages include. After all, the visitors are not searching for “product” or “service” when they head on Google.

Mistake #3 – Putting several menu items

Another terrible mistake, but we always see websites with too many items on their navigation bar. This is not good because it requires the visitors to look at and process the menu items longer than necessary, driving them farther away from making an action. The most common culprit are the e-commerce websites which have no idea how to organize their categories. These sites cram the primary navigation to give their visitors an access to the pages.

How to avoid:

While there are no exact rules regarding how many items to put in it, it would be best to limit those items to five to seven items. Our short-term memory can only remember seven items; less is always better nav-wise. Fewer choices mean evaluating each easily and quickly to inform the decision the person needs to make. Not to mention, the site’s link juice won’t be diluted since there are fewer links on the homepage.

Mistake #4 – Putting the items in wrong order

In other words, some websites are too pushy, forcing conversions to their [first-time] visitors through putting “Contact Us” as the first item in the navigation bar. Then, there are websites that drown their core products and services with other unnecessary menu items and in drop-down menus.

How to avoid:

Because the navigation is a list too, the first and last items are the most effective due to the principles of primacy and recency. That’s why the contact page is often placed as the last item. It’s that item’s standard location, and visitors would remember and act upon it. Also, place the most important items at the beginning. The least important items should be in the middle. Since they aren’t as important, you may put them in the footer instead.

Mistake #5 – Putting the wrong items on the menu

When taking out those items that shouldn’t be in the navigation bar in the first place, some websites chose to remove those items that should be in the navigation. Case in point: “A Message from the President.” This and other such links do not increase the visitor’s confidence. In fact, these may lead them to think that the website is not actually developed for them, but for a chosen few (internal members and direct stakeholders).

How to avoid:

These links must be put in the sub-navigation if there are too many items and having such makes more sense. Essentially, think of the site users when deciding whether an item must be included in the main navigation or not.

Mistake #6 – Putting several links in the fly out

After deciding for the links that must be included in the sub-menu, the tendency is to put them in a fly-out menu, the sub-menu that appears when you hover or click the main link. For example, the “Our Company” link flies out to include History, People, Careers, etc. The problem with this is that some websites’ fly out menus include more than five or more levels. Some fly out menus further fly out, which confuses the users more.

How to avoid:

Definitely, you want these sub-links to be accessible to the users. However, if you are going to present these links, a three-level sub-menu will do. Anything more than that can be considered as non-essential. If possible, get rid of fly out menus. But if these cannot be avoided, make sure that these are reachable on mobile devices.

Mistake #7 – Having an unresponsive navigation bar

Google requires that a website should be also accessible on mobile devices. Still, there are websites that are available on mobile search yet their navigation doesn’t respond properly. Most of the times, the websites have navigation elements that are so close to another, tapping them is an immediate challenge. These sites also use buttons that are no longer appropriate nowadays.

How to avoid:

When designing for mobile, make sure that it is being built with a responsive approach. This is the only way to ensure that the website will display on different devices with different screen sizes. Further, test the website to determine how mobile-friendly the website is. Google has a mobile-friendly test that analyzes the elements on the site and offers suggestions based on the analysis.

A fully-functional navigational structure encourages the visitors to explore and spend more time on your website. Without a clear, appropriate and easy-to-use navigation, you cannot expect your visitors to dwell on your site, leading to a higher bounce rate. Evidently, the navigation is the most important element of a website because it can make or break the experience. There is no option, but to get it right the first time.

About April Ang

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