It's important that we use web design best practices in every area of your website, including the navigation. The reason for having these best practices is that they are proven methods for getting the best results for and from your website visitors.
Some of this may seem obvious because of how we all intuitively use the internet, but I'd like to break it down for us to help you learn and to help me remember. So, let's get to it.
Here are the main targets I want to hit when addressing the top navigation structure on your website:
- Let's start with logo placement: What's best? Top left. Your logo is usually expected to be in the top left since we read from left to right. Centered is ok as well, but this is the first thing people will use to identify what the site is/who it belongs to, so we won't waste any time trying to get clever with where to put it.
- Link the logo: Your logo is also expected to link back to the home page. This helps people quickly get back there without opening your navigation, which saves them a step, especially on mobile devices.
- The link organization: Since we read left to right, we organize links in terms of importance or flow. This helps the visitor quickly understand what the priorities of the website are and how they can expect the information to be ordered.
- Link quantity: We'll want to limit your top navigation items to 5-7. This is because the human brain will typically only remember this many items after reading them in a list and we don't want to overload it with information. For websites with lots of content, we'll add sub-categories or drop-down menus to make additional information discoverable. This way, things stay organized and tidy for the visitor.
- Link highlighting: Highlighting the page the visitor is on helps them understand at a glance where they are on the website.
- Additional contact or other information: This is actually considered information for a utility bar, and should be visually separate from the navigation since it performs a different function.
- Search and cart functions: It goes without saying that if you have products for sale, you'll need a cart. But what about including a search feature in the website? This would be addressed on a case-by-case basis, depending on what your content is, how much you have, and how easy it is to find things without the search. If we can quite easily find things without it, we'll probably leave it out.
Conclusion - What's best for the visitor is usually best for your site. After all, without them, websites wouldn't have a purpose at all. If your business has a lot of content and information to distribute to your customers, clients, or fans, we need to be thoughtful and strategic about how to organize it from the start. I can help guide the process so you get a website you (and your visitors) will love. Contact me for a free chat.