Top 5 Best Practices for Website Navigation Design

Best Practice for Website Navigation Design

1. Give Users an Experience They Expect

Many people read this first rule and think, “If we give users an experience they expect, how do we stand out from the competition and showcase our brand as being unique?” This question is excellent, and the answer given by our Toronto web design company is consistent and based on twenty years of experience. Website navigation is a fundamental part of every single website. A website’s navigation is its most important tool and drives user experience and conversion just as much, if not more than a beautiful design or well-executed landing page. We do not want our audience to have to learn to use our website’s navigation, nor leave any doubt as to what will happen when a button is clicked or pressed. The opportunity to be unique and stand out from the competition lies within the interface design and messaging — not the design of the website’s navigation. If we confuse web visitors right off the bat when they enter our website, we can be sure they won’t be converting at a very high rate. Still, more importantly, we create a negative experience with our brand as well as drive up the bounce rate damaging our website’s organic search rankings.

2. Navigation Design Must Be Consistent

Consistency is vital for creating a well-received navigation design. We must choose a link or button colour and use it consistently across the entire site. Our Toronto web designers refer to this as our “action colour,” which is usually the brightest, most vibrant colour within a brand’s colour palette. For the sake our this article, let’s say the brand we’re working with includes a vibrant red within the corporate identity design system. We want to use that strong, attention-commanding red only for buttons and links throughout the website design, where we want users to take action. Using the red not only ensures we rely on the most dominant colour to grab attention but also entice conversion with a robust attention-holding design. If we use this red consistently for navigational elements only, we know that our audience, within seconds, will understand that all red elements within the user interface design are clickable. Their user journey will be smooth and predictable.

3. Navigation Should Be Accessible and Visible

Now that we understand the navigation is an essential element within the website design and user experience, we can touch on a rule that has some flexibility. Navigation should always be accessible and visible to every user. With the evolution of responsive web design, this rule has had to become much more flexible as the experience we design for the desktop environment can sometimes differ significantly from experience on a mobile device. As a general rule of thumb, our Toronto web design company aims to keep all primary navigation visible in the website header. This practice ensures our website navigation design is formatted and positioned in a place the audience expects to find it, and also allows us to be consistent. As users dig into the website or begin to scroll down long pages, we employ what is called “sticky navigation” or “persistent navigation.” This strategy means that once users move past the initial page, fold the navigation or header sticks to the top of their web browser and follow them down the page to ensure that the navigation is always in view and always accessible for users to take the next step in their journey.

4. Navigation Should Be Simple

One mistake we repeatedly see with website navigation design is the sitemap or mega menu approach. This practice or design theory treats the website navigation like a site map that lists every single page within the website. In general, we do not want visitors to make more than three clicks to get to the information they want. Ideally, we only ask them to click once, but in reality, two or three layers of navigation are reasonable.

5. Pay Attention to Menu Order

This rule is the one we get the most pushback on. Ultimately, there is no right or wrong answer, but we must be in-tune and attentive to our audience. Depending on the industry, demographics and scale of the navigation, the order in which we present menu options matters. In most cases, our web designers in Toronto prefer to display top navigation in the order of importance based on analytics data. This means that we want our most accessed pages at the beginning of the primary navigation, starting on the left and ending with our action point or destination, such as the Contact page, on the far right. This approach is based on the pattern North American’s (and most of the world for that matter) read in. We start in the top left corner and read left to right.

Putting It All to Work

Understanding the intricacies of navigation design within a website is fundamental to its success. One of the essential roles a web designer plays in a project is educating the client or business owner and convincing them to trust the data. Emotion and “feelings” cannot be relied on to create a website design that converts well. What does work has been tried, tested and practiced in the real world for years. The analytics data and industry studies performed all come to the same conclusion. Following our best practices for website navigation design will ensure your website provides a positive experience to visitors and ultimately drives a successful conversion rate.

About Parachute Design

Parachute Design has been a leading Toronto web design agency since 2003. For the last two decades, our professional web designers have honed their craft, working with some of the world’s most exciting brands. This experience provides our clients with a solid foundation from which to launch their marketing activities to grow their business successfully.



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Parachute Design

Parachute Design

Parachute Design Group Inc. is a boutique Toronto web design agency specializing in beautiful hand-made website design, custom logo design and branding.