Web Site Navigation Tips


Site Navigation Design

A web site’s navigation design should be clearly and thoughtfully labeled, and should provide a quick and easy way for its visitors to find the information they came for.

While the navigation scheme for a small informational web site might be relatively simple to design, with larger sites a carefully structured and well thought out link hierarchy is a must.

Basic web site navigation design principles, including link hierarchy, location indicators and consistency should be implemented with the creation of any web site navigation scheme.

Link Hierarchy

Your site navigation design should begin with a link from your home page to all the major themes or categories of your web site. Avoid creating numerous links from your home page directly to individual pages within each category (this technique can be useful, however, for showcasing one or two pages that you think your users may have a particular interest in).

Instead, design your navigation to link to those pages from the appropriate main category pages. Your web site navigation design should guide your users (and search engines) logically and efficiently from one page to another.

The site navigation should create a coherent hierarchy from your top level category pages down to the individual content pages.

Location Indicator

A system that gives your website users a clear indication of their current location from any page on the site is called a location indicator.

An internet user may navigate to a web page other than your home page from an external link or search engine query, and a good web page navigation design will give the user an indication of where that page is located within the context of the entire site.

Location indicators can be designed many ways, such as the differentiation of categories with varying color schemes or even secondary navigation bars. A popular navigation location indicator is the “breadcrumb trail,” which displays on every page a series of hierarchical links from the top subject category down to the individual web pages.

Consider the example:

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Navigation Consistency

A web site’s navigation design should be intuitive and simple. In most cases, a navigation scheme located in high visibly sections of the web page, at the top or on the left, are the most appropriate. More importantly, with the possible exception of the home page, the navigation system should be consistent throughout the entire web site, on every web page navigation element.

Uniformity, orgainization and carefully planned design are key principles to developing an effective web site navigation system that will help your web site users browse your site efficiently and confidently.

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