Peter VanRysdam / Innovation / July 30th, 2009

Intuitive Navigation is Critical on the Web

Inspiration for a new blog post can strike when you least expect it…I was waiting for a flight the other day in the lovely Gainesville Regional Airport when I saw a sign that left be befuddled.  I’d never been befuddled before, so I decided to whip out the camera and take a picture.

My first thought, after taking a few minutes to figure out where I needed to go to relieve myself (would’ve taken twice as long if I was a woman!) was how this type of poor navigation is so common online.  Navigation within a site is no different than navigation in a store, mall, airport, or where ever!  Careful attention needs to be paid not to just where things are placed, but how people will get to them.Here are some points to keep in mind:Consistency – This is rule number one.  Keep a consistent menu on all pages of the site to the main sections.  There’s nothing worse than a site where a link is there on one page and gone on the next.  It’s even worse when they’re reordered from page to page.  Make sure the key calls to action are linked in the same place on every page!Follow Best Practices – Like them or not, there are some standards people have come to expect in site navigation.  Following them will make the experience better for your customers.  First off, make the logo or header in the upper left of the site link to the homepage.  Second, include a footer with the most important links (contact, about, sitemap, terms, etc).  People know to look for these things in these places.  Give them what they want.On that note, don’t be afraid to duplicate certain key links.  If you want to have some unique menu, that’s fine.  But you should also put a text link to these pages in the footer or header.  Prioritize and Organize – Menu overload is the number one killer of potential sales.  OK, I made that up, but it really does annoy and confuse users.  You don’t have to link to every single page from every other page.  Two clicks to get somewhere is acceptable.  Anymore is too much.  So organize the menu in to categories and subcategories as needed to make navigation intuitive.At the end of the day, more is better than less.  While I was a bit confused, I did make it to the airport restroom.  These simple steps will leave your customers focused on your products instead of the journey they had to make to find them!