Web Design and Navigation – Don’t Even Think Of Doing This!
Good website navigation is an essential element that every functional web design requires. Unfortunately, it is also an area that often suffers from mistakes. When there is poor navigation, user function is poor. As a result, a website will suffer in terms of lost conversions, reduced traffic and reduced SEO. To ensure every website has the most user-friendly navigation, even the best web designers must remember how to avoid the most common navigational design mistakes.
Disorganized, Overly Complex Flyouts
Dropdown and flyout menus are the standard function for most navigational menus. This is to keep the main menu bar, or list, from getting out of control. However, it is critical that web designers do not go crazy with them, either. Too many layers, flyouts that end up blocking the entire page, and difficulty keeping flyouts and dropdowns open, can detract from efficient navigation – making it challenging to maneuver around a website. Keeping the main menu and its sub-layers under control depends on efficient categorization of website pages so everything is reachable, without the user menu getting out of control.
Too Many, Too Much, Too Long
Having too many menu choices can also be distracting, further demonstrating how important the effective categorization of web pages can be. Too many navigational links detracts from a site, rather than adding to it – which is what many people think would happen by providing more choices. The navigation link labels themselves should be kept short. Buttons should be standardized, and contain a single line of brief text that is only long enough to indicate where the link goes. Wordy navigational links look unattractive, and create a look of disorganization, while labels that are short and to the point look clean and uniform.
Using the Wrong Menu Choices
Actually deciding on what menu categories to use can be a challenge. The main navigation menu should have important, but broader categories, and links to essential web pages, if they are not found elsewhere. The next layers should appropriately divide pages into sub-categories where necessary, to provide some form of access to all pages. The goal is not to have a long list of links that spans the width of the site, or down the entire sidebar, but to provide as few choices as possible from the start, dividing them as things go along, while still keeping the number of layers and sub-categories to as few as possible.
Menu Functions Too Small
The best navigational layout, in terms of architecture and categorization, is useless if users have a hard time clicking on the individual links. This is especially common in dropdown and flyout links. If navigation links are little more than small text, it can be difficult and frustrating for users to get to the desired page. For these reasons, it is important that navigational links be large enough to be clicked or touched individually, without accidentally clicking the wrong one. This is especially true for mobile websites, where small touch screens can be particularly challenging.
Navigation Not Standard on All Pages
Another very confusing, and frustratingly common problem in many web design, is navigation menus that are not in a consistent place throughout the website. A good web design includes navigation as a base element on all pages, and that does not change location throughout the site. By consistently keeping the menu in the same place, users will have a much easier time navigating a website.
Easy, uncomplicated navigation is a crucial part of a great web design. When menus are difficult to use, or confuse the user, even the most beautiful and informative websites are rendered nearly useless. To avoid user problems, the best web designers put a great deal of thought into creating the best navigation menu possible. This means anything from deciding on the right interface, to structuring the hierarchy of categories and layers. Website effectiveness and efficiency depend on it!