Ever wondered why many of your site visitors leave before they find what you have to offer? One of the more common reasons is a poor navigation system. Without proper navigation, a site loses all sense of structure, organization and its potential customers too. The purpose of site navigation is to inform the user as to where they are, what's on offer, and where they can go next. It gives an idea of the depth of your site. When you travel to a new place, you want to know where you are.
There are many ways of presenting your navigation: along the top and bottom, in a bar down one side of the screen, or in a frame that stays with you throughout the site. Ideally navigation should be such that a visitor can go to any page in a maximum of two or three clicks, with the main page accessible in just one click.
In order to make every page of your site accessible, it’s essential to have certain navigational elements present in your site such as:
A link back to your home page is a must. It should connect to all the other parts of the site. It helps to have a home page link throughout the site especially if someone has gone deep into your site, away from what they were looking for. They can then return to the home page and look again. Clicking on the main logo, usually located in the top left, should also return you to the home page.
Page jumps are essential on all long pages. They are links to sections of a single page. Often, the visitor does not scroll very far down a page. A page jump at the start of a document acts as a table of contents, allowing readers to quickly access relevant sections.
At times, a visitor feels lost in the site especially if he has arrived in your site through a search engine and has no idea where he is in relation to the rest of the site; then a breadcrumb trail really helps. It’s a row of links that shows how the site is structured at the top of the page as well as at the bottom.
A site map deserves as much importance as a home page link and its link should be prominent. Not only does it offer a simple route to navigate the site, but also enables the search engine spiders to easily locate them.
Multi-tier navigation structure:
A Multi-tier navigation structure is ideal for complex or large web sites offering multiple solutions. It enables users to jump from one link to another without going through various unrelated pages.
It’s imperative to maintain uniformity in the navigation structure for truly interactive and advanced web site designs. Have consistent navigation throughout the web site. Do not place the navigation system horizontally on one page and vertically in the left on another. Changes in the navigation system can cause confusion among the users.
Generally sites are organized on two levels - global and local. Global navigation helps visitor identify and move within the broad general categories. Local navigation goes down within one of the major sections of the site and takes the visitor towards a more specific location within the broad category.
According to the study conducted by Prayag Consulting, most of the companies surveyed preferred global navigation systems, while others liked local navigation system.
Generally, a few pages of a small business site do not exhibit this problem. But when your site grows to 1,000 pages and offers multiple services, you need to plan on how to make it an interactive website and how to make visitors access the information they seek fast and easily. If they get lost deep within a site, they may give up entirely and you risk losing a potential customer. Therefore, build an efficient navigation system to get customers to information quickly and intuitively.