Navigation must be simple. Since it's the backbone of your site,
it's imperative that visitors be able to understand it. Here are
two tips on how to make simplicity a reality in your site:
1. Your link titles need to be understandable.
Visitors need to know exactly what link to click on for the info
they need. Unfortunately, visitors frequently get confused and
don't understand what a link means. Consequently, they aren't
sure what info they'll find at the other end of the link.
Often, a link name that makes complete sense to you will mean
nothing to the visitor. For example, I once used a link called
"Resources" in the navigation bar of a site for a client. This
section of the site contained various articles and links to
outside sites with helpful information.
However, after a little bit of testing, I discovered that most
people had no idea what I meant by "Resources". They didn't know
what kind of information was in that area. Also, when visitors
tried to look for articles, they didn't think to check the
In other words, the link wasn't doing anyone any good.
The difference between your understanding of a term and a
visitor's understanding of the same term can be rather drastic.
This happens because you are so close to your own business and
your own site.
It's important to remember that visitors don't know nearly as
much about your business as you do. They often have no
background knowledge, and they might not know standard terms in
your industry. Sometimes, you'll have to work to come up with
terms and phrases for your links that are meaningful to the
Here's one general principle: Don't use clever terms.
Although clever attention-getters often work well in the offline
world, it's different online. In character with their generally
hurried attitude, web users want to know exactly where they are
going and what they will find when they click on a link. They
don't like guessing games and are usually not enticed by clever
lead-ins. What lies beyond them is simply not clear.
Cleverness doesn't belong in navigation unless you're positive
the meaning will be understood by everyone. You should avoid
anything that isn't straightforward and clear. Steer away from
any terms that obscure what your links are really about.
Also, you should be very careful about using industry-specific
terms. You might be suprised to find out how much of your lingo
doesn't make sense to people who aren't familiar with your
industry. Carefully evaluate each of your links to make sure
you're not using a confusing term.
2. Navigation options need to be kept to a minimum
The second way you can simplify your navigation is to make the
amount of options manageable. Visitors tend to get overwhelmed
if you give them too many choices. They aren't able to focus.
Rather than seeing each individual option, they only see a mass
An additional reason not to include too many links is that you
ordinarily shouldn't send visitors in a lot of different
directions. If you've established a primary goal for your site
(you have, haven't you?), your site should revolve around
accomplishing that goal. So it's in your best interest to keep
the options down. That way, you're able to steer your visitors
in the direction you want them to go.
Keep your navigation menus to 5-7 options or less. That's the
max amount you can have without losing your visitors'
concentration. Any more than that, and they aren't able to
discern an individual choice.
If you find yourself having more than 5-7 options in each of
your navigation menus, try to pare them down. It's better to
simplify the list and make sure visitors can evaluate everything
than to cram everything in when visitors will miss most of it.
If you really need more than 7 links, group the links into a few
categories. Although this can still get overwhelming, it helps
significantly if you categorize links for visitors. They can
latch onto one category and narrow it down from there, rather
than having to deal with the whole list at once.
Overall, try to objectively evaluate your navigation from the
point of view of a visitor. If you can, get input from people
who aren't familiar with your site or your business. They'll be
a great resource in helping you determine whether or not your
links are confusing or overwhelming.
About the author:
There are 605.6 million people online. Can they find your
business? Jamie Kiley creates powerful and engaging websites
that make sure YOUR company gets noticed. Visit
http://www.kianta.com for a free quote. Get a quick, free web
design tip every two weeks--sign up for Jamie's newsletter: