The navigation bar is a mainstay throughout your site. It allows visitors to move from one page to another with ease. Site visitors look for the nav bar, and it has a lot of power over how well your website performs. If a site visitor lands on your page and has no idea where to go or how to find the content they need, they will bounce away to a competitor’s site.
About 50 percent of visitors look to the navigation of a website to become familiar with the layout. First-time visitors are likely to use your navigation from the minute they land on the page. Imagine what happens if it isn’t easy to find and they feel disoriented! Fortunately, there are some navigation bar tips you can use to make sure your nav bar is the absolute best it can be.
1. Place Navigation Near the Top
Site visitors expect your navigation bar to be near the top of your website. They will look for it just under your header or in the sidebar near the top. If you place your navigation under the fold, they may feel frustrated when they can’t find it quickly.
Put it in a predictable location. Look at other websites, and you’ll see most of them place the navigation bar horizontally just under the header.
2. Create Broad Categories
If your site covers several different topics, take a step back and figure out what your main categories are. It’s best to limit the number to keep site visitors from becoming overwhelmed. For example, if you have a tab for articles, one for infographics and one for videos, combine these under one tab titled “Information” or “Content.” Then, create subcategories under the main categories.
SITECH West is an excellent site to study for breaking down topics into broader categories. Note the subcategories under the main categories, such as “New” and “Used” under “Tech Solutions.” These direct site visitors exactly where they need to go.
3. Mark the Location
Let site visitors know where they are on your site. It’s easy to click on several links and get a bit lost. However, if you add a bit of animation to your nav bar, users know where they are at any given time with a quick glance at the bar.
This tactic also keeps your site visitors engaged. Options include a button that stands out for the page you’re on, a dimensional change or a different color tab.
4. Make the Nav Interactive
Anything you can do to help visitors interact with your site keeps them there longer and better engages them. Instead of implementing a boring, flat navigation bar, add a bit of interactivity, such as having the drop-down menu appear when the user mouses over the tab. Another idea is to have the tabs change colors when the user hovers over one of them.
Saddle Creek Logistics uses an interactive navigation bar to engage the user from the minute they land on the page. Hover over “What We Do” to view a list of the logistics services they offer. The same effect occurs no matter which tab you hover over.
5. Use Specific Labels
When you go to broader categories to limit the number of tabs on your navigation bar, you may lose some specifics in the translation. Don’t try to get fancy or cute with your navigation. Instead, stick with words that describe exactly what the user will find under that tab.
For example, if you run a blog that focuses on food, you might have words such as “Recipes” and “Restaurant Reviews.” However, don’t condense so much that you lose the ability to be specific. There has to be a balance between the two.
6. Test Mobile Responsiveness
More and more people are using their smartphones to access the Internet. By 2019, experts predict there will be 2.5 billion smartphone users globally. If your website isn’t mobile-responsive, mobile visitors may abandon your site entirely.
That is especially true for your navigation menu, which is a source of frustration on many smartphones. Don’t be afraid to implement a hamburger menu for your mobile site. Users know what the hamburger icon means, and using it allows you to condense the menu for smaller screens.
LARABAR is an excellent example of a site with a mobile-responsive design. If you go to their site via a PC, you’ll see some choices across the top and a menu you can click on and expand. However, if you access the site via a mobile device, a hamburger menu appears to the top right, and clicking on it expands your choices. It creates a simple design that puts the focus on the product.
7. Add a Search Function — Maybe
Experts argue about the search function in your navigation. Some are all for it, while others say it distracts and doesn’t tend to return the results users want. The truth probably lies somewhere between those two extremes.
If your site has a lot of content, a search function is helpful. Users might be back to find a specific article or learn more about a given topic. The search feature saves them time. On the other hand, if the search results don’t match what the user wants, you risk them bouncing away. If you add a search function, make sure it works properly, and keep it unobtrusive.
8. Use the Correct Order
Studies show items appearing first or last on a list are the most important. How you order your navigation bar can impact your conversions. If you want people to shop on your site, put the store button near the beginning or end of your nav bar. Think about which items are most important and where you most want users to click, and order them accordingly in your nav bar.
Magnolia, a site by HGTV star Joanna Gaines, features products that allow you to copy her farmhouse chic style. Note how the first choice in the navigation menu is “Shop.” It directs the site visitor to the online store and emphasizes why people would want to buy products from the site.
9. Limit the Menu Items
As mentioned before, don’t create a super-long, bulky menu. Instead, choose no more than seven main categories and limit those to your main navigation. You can always offer subcategories or a sitemap if you feel the user needs to have those broken down a bit more.
It dilutes the authority of your site if you have too many categories on the main page. Here is advice that bears repeating: Keep your navigation tabs short and to the point.
10. Keep the Design Simple
The design of your navigation bar should be straightforward. Don’t get so fancy that users have no idea what the words mean or can’t read the script font you’ve chosen. Stick with basic text that is easy to read, such as Arial or another well-known and frequently used font.
1Bite2Go Cafe & Deli is a dining option in Taiwan. They do a good job keeping the look of their nav bar simple and easy to read. Note how the text is easy to read and not cluttered with images or busy background. Instead, the background is solid and highlights the menu options.
11. Contrast Text and Background
The text should pop because it contrasts with the background. If your goal is to get users to click on your nav bar, you have to make it easy for them to read. You’ll get visitors using all sizes of screens and types of devices to access your site.
Ensure the nav bar looks good on all of them by providing a visually pleasing contrast.
12. Link to the Homepage
Most people use the logo of your page as a marker to get back to the homepage. You should place the logo in the top part of your page, where users expect to find it, and should also make it clickable. If a user clicks on the logo, they should go back to your homepage.
The Nav Bar Matters
Your navigation bar is one of the most essential elements of your website. It allows users to get their bearings, find resources and navigate back to your home page. Take time to create a nav bar that is highly functional for your users, and it will help convert visitors into loyal customers.