Building your Calgary business a great website requires attention to detail, and your site’s navigation bar is one of the most important design details to get right. Without sensible, straightforward navigation, you risk your great content going unread, and your excellent e-commerce offerings collecting dust. Ignoring navigation is like building a highway without roadsigns (or 4G connections). People might reach their destination eventually, but next time they’ll probably choose the road that is well-marked.
The good news is that setting up your site’s navigation bar doesn’t have to be difficult. Most Internet users are familiar with the main page types on any site, so the key is simply providing them with an easy way to get there. In other words, the navigation bar isn’t really the place to get creative. By leaning on established navigation conventions, you can ensure that your site visitors can always find what they need, when they need it.
The Basics of Navigation
The navigation bar should located near the top of the page, typically slotting in beneath your site’s banner and logo. Selecting how many categories, or channels, to include is the first step to setting up your navigation. The number of categories will vary somewhat based on your business type, but five to seven categories is usually good.
Nearly every navigation bar and banner will have an “about us” link, a “contact us” link, and a way back to the homepage. If you sell products or services online, you’ll also need a category for your online store, where you can highlight specific information on items you sell.
As you set up your navigation bar, consider how you hope visitors will use your site. When they land on your homepage, where do you want them to go next?
Your category names should be descriptive, but not obscure. Using familiar category names is usually the best choice, as long as they accurately describe the page that they lead to.
Choosing and Organizing Your Categories
The about, contact, and home links will be standard inclusions in most navigation bars and banners. Beyond that, your choices depend on what you hope your site will accomplish. Remember that categories can often be combined to avoid overloading the navigation bar. Your company’s hours, location information, and driving directions, for example, can all be included in your “about” link, if you want to drop the “contact us” in favour of something else.
- Retailers with broad product offerings will need more navigation links than even the average e-commerce business. Consider using drop-down menus with alphabetical product listings, so that users can see more detailed information as needed, without too much noise in the rest of the navigation bar.
- Alphabetical order is perfect for longer lists, but as Nielsen-Norman Group suggests, you can likely do better when organizing the navigation bar itself. The best way to start is to put the categories that you deem most important in the places where site visitors are most likely to click them.
- People pay more attention to items at the beginning and end of lists, and that principle holds for navigation bars. The first few links are the most important, so your key categories should be on the left side of your navigation bar. This “marquee” area is the perfect place to list your online store, or information that leads customers to your brick-and-mortar location.
Don’t forget about mobile site visitors! Many people will access your website through smartphones, tablets, and other small-screen mobile devices. If you want your navigation bar to function as will on the small screen as it does on a big one, your website needs to be responsive. And building a responsive website isn’t just about navigation. It allows site visitors to use all of the most important features on your website, without sacrificing quality.
Navigation is one of the most important, if sometimes unheralded, aspects of building a powerful website. Besides, offering easy navigation simply makes sense. A well-organized navigation bar is the best way to make sure site visitors can find the great content that you have to offer.
Ready to get the most out of your Calgary business’s website design? Take a look at our recipe for success, and learn what Emphasize Design can do for you!