Accessible Website Navigation: Comprehensive Guide

Created by Vooban -
  

What comes to mind when you hear about website navigation? Navigation, like in a map sort-of way? Why would anyone need navigation INSIDE an online website? You wouldn’t think it is possible to get lost inside a website, would you? Well, you’d be surprised to know the answer. You CAN be lost on a website. When you are inside a site, but you can’t explore around, or you can’t do anything else, then you are ‘trapped’ within the site. In the end, you can’t wait to leave the site, and most likely, you swear not to be back again. 

Killer website navigation can help a brand achieve great success. On the other hand, poor navigation may break a business, especially if you are new to it. We live in an era where the online system dominates the market. Having an online website is just as important as having brick-and-mortar stores. The site represents your brand. It represents your business. Poor navigation affects the business’ reputation and reliability. When visitors come to your website, they will take a look around. They want to explore the site. They want to know what your business is about, what you are offering, and what benefits they can get when they purchase your products or services. In this matter, navigation helps to get you around. Fail on it, and your business may go crash.

 

What Is Website Navigation?

In technical terms, web navigation is about navigating the process of information resource networks in WWW (World Wide Web), which is typically organized as hypermedia or hypertext. A web browser is the user interface to do the navigation. In casual terms, web navigation refers to a method where you can move around and explore the website.

Imagine this: You are on a website. It sells your favorite stuff: craft items. The homepage looks good and promising. It has impressive layouts. The colors are fascinating. You get a peek at the price tags. They are all affordable and within your budget range. From there, however, you don’t know where to go. You try clicking on an image about natural craft items, but nothing happens. The cursor is responsive and changing, which means that the link is supposed to work. When you click on it, it is supposed to take you elsewhere. Nothing happens, though. You try clicking on other links or images. Still, nothing happens. You’ve spent a few minutes trying everything, and nothing works. Sadly, you have to say goodbye to this site and probably vow never to go back again, no matter how attracted you are to their stuff. 

This is an example of how website navigation can affect the business. When people come to the website, they want to explore around. They want to know more about the business: about your products, services, commitment, and such thing alike. They want the freedom to be able to roam around the site easily and fast. However, if they come to your site and find out that it is unresponsive, they won’t bother staying. They will definitely walk away. If they come to the site and they find it to be poor or confusing, they will walk away. If they even get lost inside the site, then they will be leaving your site as unhappy visitors.

Happy visitors will come back. Simple design, straightforward navigation, and responsive interface are the combinations that visitors love. All visitors want the ability to locate the crucial information right away, without a fussy method or complicated way. Website navigation is supposed to help visitors get the information they want before they can make any CTA (Call to Action). 

Created by Wild Souls

 

The Importance of Web Navigation

Well and carefully designed site navigation should take visitors from point A to B in an intuitive, efficient, and quick way without any drama. There are also reasons why good website navigation is important:

  • Navigation helps the site appear organized and structured. 
  • Good and responsive navigation will make visitors be ‘encouraged to explore and find out more, especially if they are able to see the navigation links and bars clearly.
  • Good navigation can help visitors perform searches quickly and efficiently.
  • Navigation tools are handy to break the site’s up into groups and categories within an understandable and logical manner
  • Good and responsive navigation would work well with SEO, which is crucial when you are into traffic and conversion. It is related to the significant improvement of web usability. After all, if the site can’t be accessible (by a link), then search engines won’t be able to find it. 
  • Good and helpful navigation shouldn’t be complicated. No one likes complications or difficult stuff. If you have nice, seamless, and easy navigation, visitors will love spending time there. They will linger for a longer time – and then they will return because they already have a fun experience on your website. 
  • Good website navigation is crucial to make sure that your site offers a ‘fun’ and enjoyable user experience, which speaks volumes of its usability and accessibility.

Moreover, everything about your website would represent the business. The layout, the colors, the logo, and other things are the direct representation of your business. When the website has a nice, smooth, and seamless interface and navigation system, visitors would see it as a sign of professionalism. Imagine what happens if your website navigation is poor and lousy. People would indirectly relate it to your business being unprofessional. In the end, your business will suffer. 

Created by Bumbuk Studio

 

Website Navigation Basic Principles

When designing a website, there are several aspects to consider when it comes to planning navigation. Good navigation is about simplicity, (logical) hierarchy, and also versatility. We are going to dig into them one by one. 

Simplicity 

In general, everyone likes simplicity. It’s about keeping stuff simple and limiting the menu options. You are able to deliver the message without too much fuss or ‘noise.’ Instead of displaying 20 different options on the website navigation menu (which will make it look cramped and packed), it would be simpler to have just several of them. Don’t forget that your website navigation plans should incorporate simplicity from the very early stage to the very end. 

Logical Hierarchy 

The navigation menu is about the hierarchy of information. When you plan on the creation, you need to plan what you are going to put into the menu label. Let’s say that you are building a law firm service. The menu should focus and highlight things like the law area you are focusing on, your team, your contact info, and client testimonials. Put everything on the list so the labels would be easy to understand, fast, and logical for every visitor coming to your website. Besides knowing what to include in the labels, you should also focus on how you are going to write on the labels. For instance, it’s better to write ‘Contact Us’ instead of ‘Our Contact Information. It’s shorter, somewhat more user-friendly, and more efficient. The more efficient design would give you more freedom in website design and also navigation.

Versatility

You want to create a website design that is responsive. It means that the site is able to provide the same (friendly) user experience and interface, no matter what kind of platform you are using. Whether you are using a smartphone, a tablet, a laptop, or a computer, the website should be able to adjust the size (and the contents) quite well. In short, the overall browsing experience should be fun and easy.

The ideal website navigation should include responsiveness and versatility. It should also focus on users’ everyday habits or routines. For instance, most people would use their smartphones to access a website. Accessing the laptops or desktops can be too much sometimes, so they would turn to a more accessible device. Imagine how annoying it is when a website that is looking great and perfect on the desktop or laptop looks chaotic and messy on the smartphone. It can be a put-off experience. Visitors may have a negative view of your brand after the unpleasant experience, which may affect traffic and also conversion. You don’t want to be notorious for ugly site navigation, do you?

Created by Verholy

 

Different Types of Website Navigation

When we are talking about versatility, we are talking about the navigation menu’s visual style. There are actually several different options that you can refer to.

Hamburger Menu

This is the type of website navigation that gains popularity in this industry. The hamburger menu gets its name because of its shape that looks like a hamburger. The menu (or the button) will open to a navigation drawer or a side menu. The concept is that it hides the menu at first, but when the visitor wants to expand the view or the option, they simply click on the icon. This kind of design is helpful to make the website looks simple and straightforward. It looks less chaotic or cluttered, encouraging more exploration in the simplest manner. Not to mention that such a menu has somewhat a more intuitive style to navigate. 

Created by Fuoripista

  

Dropdown Menu

Also known as the list box, the dropdown menu enables visitors to pick only one value from the (provided) list. The great thing about this type of navigation is that you can include tons of information within a condensed and limited space. If you are going to use this style, it would be best to keep it short. The menu labels shouldn’t be more than two words to keep everything simple. Remember, this style enables you to jam a lot of information in such a limited space without making it cluttered or messy. So, if you have tons of information to share, this would be an ideal website navigation style to choose. 

Created by Virgin Hyperloop

  

Footer Navigation

Footer navigation assists the visitors in exploring more content in the most efficient way. It also helps you increase page views. In fact, this type of website navigation is handy to add a sitemap, for instance, as well as other aspects, such as a privacy policy, terms of use, contact links, and so much more. 

A lot of people tend to forget that footer is still a part of the navigation experience. In terms of hierarchy, the footer may come last, but it doesn’t mean that you should neglect it. Such website navigation offers you different approaches to manage the layout. The footer can contain navigation labels. It’s also possible, however, to focus on several important highlights to be placed there. 

Be advised, though, that the bottom part of the site MUST incorporate the most useful and important info, such as how to reach out to you. In terms of visuals, the footer navigation may seem less attractive than the dropdown or hamburger, but it can be a great design – if you really know what you are doing. 

Created by Fleava

  

Interactive Menu

This is one of the latest types of technology that makes your website ‘alive.’ All of the menus are basically brought to life. Not to mention that all of the features are catchy. For instance, you may find a button ‘Click the Video’ where you can watch descriptive videos of what the business is about – instead of having to read them. You may also find the chat line with a moving avatar, so it may seem like you are talking to a real person over there. Whenever you click on something, they are moving, coming to life, and such things alike. If you want to, you can make use of this type of website navigation so your website would be more interactive and interesting. It’s certainly more fun to access and use!

Created by Apose -

 

Several Perfect Examples

We have talked about the importance of website navigation and what kinds of types of them out there. Now, we are going to focus on some of the already existing examples. 

ZEN.LY

Created by Zen.ly
  

This website combines several great elements in one responsive and streamlines design. No matter what device visitors use, rest assured that the site would accommodate the appearance just well enough. It has a hamburger icon, which makes the information easier to manage and display within small screen devices. 

 

CMBV

Created by CMBV
  

The website incorporates a simple layout. All of their navigations are compiled within the pop-up menu page. Basically, the menu concludes all the key points that they wants to share. When visitors explore more by scrolling down the main page, they will learn more about the page. 

It’s an interesting approach, really. At the top, the information is minimal and implements a get-to-know basis only. However, as visitors are moving further through the site, they will learn more. They can digest, experience, and learn more. This unique website navigation is definitely helpful to keep the visitors stay engaged while saving space at the same time. 

 

Using Tools for Navigation’s Optimization

We live in the modern and digital era. Don’t underestimate the importance of many helpful tools that can help you with your website’s management, design, and planning. Here’s a thing about website navigation: Do it from the beginning – not the end. After you have done with the website (the planning, the development, the creation, etc.), your job isn’t done. You still need to monitor and observe it. This is when you should use Analytics to do some evaluation on your work. 

If you are using this tool, you will have two reports: Navigation Summary and In-Page. Both of them can be found within the Behavior section. There are also reports concerning User Flow and Behavior Flow. You may want to go straight to Navigation Summary that will show you page lists as well as the page views percentage on each list. This kind of information will give you a handy insight into what would be best for your site and menu. 

Through this report, you can learn a lot about the navigation items most used by your visitors. Once you are done with the report, you can do these things:

  • Consider removing the items that aren’t clicked often, especially if they aren’t important
  • Re-label or rename items that are rarely clicked if they are crucial
  • Move the items that get clicked quite often to the beginning

These things can be helpful and useful to make you learn more about your website – and also the website navigation system. However, you should also remember that visitors may not use the homepage as the entry point. If your site is listed in the search engine, there are a lot of entry points available. Most (or many) visitors won’t even start from the homepage. 

Created by Matthew Fisher

 

Conclusion

As a site owner, you need to see your online platform beyond the traditional point of view. A website isn’t just a website. It’s a representation of your business, and it presents people with a visual journey that can create a memorable experience. That’s the main importance of website navigation.

Good navigation should be able to help visitors move around even though they aren’t sure about their purpose or destination themselves. Impressive website navigation should be able to deliver the required expectations and help your business improve. 

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