Website navigation can get messy in a hurry!

I don’t know about you, but one of my biggest website pet peeves is messy menus and poor website navigation. Either there’s too much stuff and I don’t know where to click, or I don’t understand what the links are and I don’t know where to click.

Either way, when I don’t know where to click, I’m unlikely to click on anything.

That’s why today I’m sharing a few simple tips to help you design effective website navigation that visitors will want to click on!

Keep it simple

Very few websites need a mega-menu or even drop-downs.

Most websites need to keep their navigation simple and limited to seven items or less.

When designing website navigation, consider what really needs to be in the main menu, and what doesn’t.

Can some of the links be moved to the footer? Or linked to from a page?

Really consider what needs to be included in the primary navigation, and don’t over-stuff it with links.

Condense

If you DO need a mega menu or navigation drop-downs, your navigation should still should be simple.

Categorize your links in a way that visitors can still easily find what they are looking for, and condense similar links under navigation headings.

For example, if you’re a creator with a newsletter and a blog and a YouTube channel, and a podcast, can all of those resources fit under one main navigation tab?

Yes! And that’s exactly what they did over at Smart Passive Income, as you can see here.

a screenshot of the navigation at SmartPassiveIncome.com showing how they have fit their blog, guides, podcast, and newsletter under a "free resources" tab in their navigation

Consider what the main categories are and how the website pages can fit under them. This will keep your navigation streamlined and easy to use.

Be descriptive

Let’s take a look at two different website navigation menus. Here’s the first:

Home – About – Services – Contact

Pretty standard, right? And it’s not bad, but it could be better. Right now, that website navigation could belong to any service provider. It could be navigation for a web designer, a copywriter, or even a plumber!

Here’s the second navigation menu:

Home – About – Copywriting – Contact

Do you see how that teeny tiny tweak suddenly made it clear exactly what we’re going to find when we click the third link?

Edit your website navigation to be more descriptive and tell visitors exactly what they are going to find.

Tell a story

Think of your website pages like chapters in a book, and arrange your navigation in a logical order that brings visitors to the book’s conclusion.

The ending of the story should be the action you most want visitors to take, whether that’s contacting you, subscribing to your newsletter, or joining your membership.

Arrange your website navigation in a logical order to guide website visitors to taking the action you want them to take.

Learn more about making your website tell a story in this post.

Highlight the important

Give website visitors a shortcut to your website’s goal by highlighting the most important menu item in your website navigation.

website navigation of mariahcoz.com - links include: newsletter, blog, free, courses & consulting, about, and free community

Here, you can see how Mariah Coz has highlighted the free community link in her website navigation in order to guide visitors to joining her community (and email list).

This helps visitors who are ready to take that step skip all the lead-ups and go straight to what they want to do. Which is also what you want them to do.

Make it work on mobile

It’s 2024 when I’m writing this, and having your website work on mobile is NOT optional.

On mobile devices, screen space is limited, so prioritize the most important menu items. Consider using a condensed menu that only displays the most important options and provides access to the rest through a dropdown or expanded menu.

Or, you can use a sticky menu that stays fixed at the top of the screen as users scroll, ensuring that the navigation is always accessible.

And definitely make sure your navigation links are large enough to be easily tapped with a finger. This will prevent accidental clicks and improve the overall user experience.

Tl;dr:

Don’t lose your website visitors. Keep your website navigation simple and easy to follow. Limit the number of links to seven or fewer so that your navigation doesn’t get too cluttered. Condense larger menus under categorized menu headings so that information is grouped together and easy to find.

Use descriptive link names to make it obvious what visitors will find when they click on them. Visitors are more likely to click descriptive links than generic ones.

Don’t forget to organize your navigation in a way that makes sense to lead your visitors through your website. And if you really want them to click something, highlight it so that it stands out in your navigation.

Finally, make sure your navigation works on mobile–there’s nothing more annoying (except popups and ads…) than trying to click a link that’s too small on your phone!

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