How Successful is Your Website Menu?

Posted 25 JuneBlog, Ideas, Tips

The easier your website is for people to use, the more likely people will use your website.

I know that sounds like some bad “guru” advice from a new age marketing book about web design, but it’s true.

If a visitor finds what he or she is looking for easily and quickly, it’s likely that visitor will stay on your site longer — and come back more frequently.

So, how successful is your website?

I have a simple test for sites I’m evaluating: I pick three things I want to find and then see how many clicks it takes to find them. Sadly, some sites don’t fare well. Why? One reason can be a poor website menu.

While there isn’t a magic number of clicks to get to the desired information, the lower the number, the better.  One is certainly ideal; anything past three can have the potential to frustrate the user.

It sounds easy  —  making a website menu — but it often requires quite a bit of planning. For those in the magazine business, this can be challenging since many magazine publishers want their website menu to replicate the magazine’s table of contents.

This rarely works. Why?

Let’s say I’m a user looking to find out information on the environmental impact of widgets. A magazine might have a column called “Dan’s View” that addresses environmental issues. If the magazine website were to use the column title as a navigation item in the menu, it’s very possible that visitors who aren’t familiar with the magazine won’t know what to expect from “Dan’s View.” It’s also possible that magazine reader’s won’t recognize the name “Dan’s View” because they’re only familiar with the picture or layout in the publication.

Bottom line: Not labeling the content with terms that are useful to all readers is confusing,

Intuitive navigation implies that users will have their needs easily met.  

So when creating a plan for your website navigation, ask the following questions so that your users can find what they need.

  • Will it sell a product or service?
  • Will it provide useful content as its main purpose?
  • Will it offer users a sense of community? You may offer both products and services and deliver useful content and provide a community.
  • Do your visitors understand clearly what it is that you have to offer them? 

Once you’ve determined your navigation goals, consider these tips:

  • Subjects: Pick a few subjects that will cover the pages or articles added to the site.
  • Industry: Select the industries your viewers belong to. This works well if it’s a website that spans across different fields or industries.
  • Medium: Put things in the categories that reflect the media (article, podcast, video, slide presentation, etc.).

Whether to use drop-down menu items:

  • Sub-menu items have the potential to make it easier to get information, but can also overwhelm the user with options.
  • Sub-sub-menus are not recommended, as they can frustrate the user if they lose their place and have to start the process all over again.

Design of menu:

  • Make sure the menu is easy to read.  There is nothing worse than having the user strain to read the menu items.
  • The menu needs to stand out on the site.  The user should have no question that this is the menu.
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