Website visitors will often decide it is faster to find a better website rather than navigate a difficult one. They’ll opt for the path of least effort which means finding a new website takes less effort.
When a new visitor arrives on your website they have to learn the interface. Most website owners assume users will invest the effort needed to learn navigation and site layout, however, there is a a 99.9% probability this will not happen. The effort is just not worth the reward.
Instead, visitors will guess their way through a website rather than learning it. They won’t take the time to go through every menu looking for the best option, they’ll take the first reasonable option.
- Visitors simply do not have the patience or motivation to figure out a confusing website navigation.
Top Navigation Tips
Avoid dropdown menus
Sure they’re popular. But definitely not a good idea. Deleting dropdown menus from your navigation is beneficial in two ways:
- Drop down menus are difficult for search engines to crawl.
- Usability studies reveal website visitors find dropdown menus annoying.
- Drop down menus encourage visitors to skip important pages.
Consider Using Breadcrumbs
Breadcrumbs small text paths, preferably located at the top of a page and/or post. On website-psychology-optimized.com, for example, the path to this page is Home » Website Psychology » Navigation. This breadcrumb trail instantly shows you where you are. Each step is clickable, all the way back to the homepage.
Why Use Breadcrumbs
- Google – Breadcrumbs make it easier for Google to determine your website structure. An added benefit is Google may use your breadcrumbs in their search results, which makes your Google listing almost irresistible to prospective visitors.
- Website Visitors Appreciate Them – Breadcrumbs provide an instant visual roadmap that helps visitors feel more comfortable. Visitors look for recognizable objects when they find them, like breadcrumbs it helps to reduce friction.
Limit Number Of Menu Items To Seven
We’ve all visited websites where there are a huge number of links on the home page. And of course, that’s bad. Putting a limit to the number of links in your primary navigation is good for two reasons.
- Fewer items in your navigation is search engine friendly.
- Fewer items in your navigation is good for website visitors. If fact, George Miller, a psychologist in his famous paper, “Some Limits on our Capacity for Processing Information,” indicates our short-term memory holds only seven items, plus or minus two.
Website Navigation Order Is Important
Items at the beginning and end are most effective. Reason being, this is where attention and retention are maximized. Technically it’s referred to as the serial position effect,
- Important note, anything we put at the beginning or end of our navigation becomes more memorable. It is respectful to put the most important items to our website visitors in these places.
Use Visual Cues
On Website Psychology Optimization I use this arrow » in front of all button links. This technique is based on a ncbi.gov study that shows people instinctively follow arrows!
- To a visitor, the arrow » is an implicit visual cue; no explanation, no experimentation, it’s obvious.
Above is an example of how I use an arrow in my buttons on Website Psychology Optimized.
Above is an example of how I use a triangle preceding links in the sidebar, table of contents page, and related article links on Website Psychology Optimized.
Spend time making your website navigation as easy and straight forward as possible. Website navigation mistakes carry severe penalties. Visitors will simply leave and search engines will have an infinitely more difficult time crawling your website.
Spend a lot of quality time designing your navigation. Be ruthless and relentless on the pursuit of simplicity. Getting your visitors to what they want to see and what you want them to see as easily and quickly as possible is the goal.