95% of website visitors agree that a positive user experience is the most important factor when they visit a website. This means building an effective online user experience is critical to the success of your website and your business.

A strong website navigation will elevate the user experience, guiding users to key information and keeping them interested and engaged in your brand throughout their digital journey.

However, you can’t just expect prospective audiences to visit your website and click to connect. Rather, they need to be directed to information that helps them identify the products and services you offer, find information that relates to their needs, and validate their decision-making during their search.

By providing a strong navigational structure, you will lead users on a seamless path to key information that eases their decision-making – driving them closer to your brand. Here’s how to do it:

Think Like Your Users

Your website needs to serve users in order to drive them to conversion. To achieve this, put yourself in their shoes and ask yourself some key questions. For instance, you’ll need to ask what style of content each type of persona will be looking for. Users in the awareness stage may be looking for tips on your blog, while those in the decision phase may need case studies and contact forms.

Be sure to have something for everyone in your website’s navigation. Regardless of the journey stage, users should be able to find the information they’re looking for simply and easily. By thinking like your users and diving into the information they seek on their search, you can base your navigation on what is best suited for their needs.

Screenshot of Squarespace homepage

 

Limit the Options

It can be tempting to dump all of your information into a giant mega-menu. However, if you have over seven options in your menu, you could lose attention from visitors and credibility from search engines.

A menu with fewer options is better for a number of reasons. For instance, users will be able to find information faster and narrow in on the content that’s most appropriate for their needs. It also keeps users from getting side tracked during their site visit. Considering people’s short-term memory only holds seven (+/- 2) items at a time, keeping the menu shorter will help users retain the key information you have at the top of the page.

Smaller menus also perform better on search engines. If your main menu is cluttered with options and your homepage is filled with links, search engines won’t be able to crawl it as fast. That’s why it’s best to avoid menus that have submenus and sub-submenus or include a vast number of categories in a list. Google crawls websites by following internal and external links. If links are unstructured and cluttered, it’s harder for Google to crawl the page and build a relationship between the user’s search and your website content. Therefore, it’s important to limit the amount of links to keep Google on a direct path to your content and build an effective linking structure.

By keeping your navigation simple and direct, you’ll keep search engines and users on track to the right information.

Screenshot of the Fairchild website

 

Choose Your Words Carefully

Language is key when building an effective website navigation. The right words can spark interest, drive traffic, and help search engines crawl your website.

Be sure to use clear descriptions on your top navigation. These menu options need to be straightforward and tell the user exactly what they can expect when they click. Refrain from using flowery language or unique lingo. This will help users navigate properly without getting confused by the language during their visit. For example, use language such as, “Blog” rather than “Our thinking” or “Services” instead of “What We Do.” These word choices will keep users on track to content that they’re looking for.

Select your words carefully in order to guide your visitors on a clear, direct path to the information fit for their unique needs.

Screenshot of Meredith homepage

 

Conclusion

An effective navigation drives the success of your website. It provides users with an enjoyable web experience, where they can easily access information and stay confident during their online search. In addition, search engines will be able to crawl your website easier, giving your website a chance to climb to the top of search results.

By thinking like your users, keeping it simple, and choosing your words carefully, you’ll build a navigational structure that drives traffic, captures the attention of visitors, and turns strangers into brand loyalists.