The brain of every website is its navigation. Navigation on all websites is the key to a website’s functioning and access to its contents. Traditional publications usually have a “table of contents” and an “index” that guide you through them. Since you can’t hold a website in your hands, a website’s navigation functions as its “table of context” or “index” and guides the user through a site to find the content they are searching for. The importance of navigation cannot be overstated, especially when working with large quantities of content. If you can’t find the content – it can’t be read. If content can’t be found or read – it is of no value either for informational purposes or revenue.
Think of designing navigation as though you were designing a road map. The goal of navigation is much like the goal of a map or road signs – to help get the user somewhere. Web readers move quickly. Therefore navigation design should always be simple and direct with the overriding objective of helping reader get to where they want to go.
Navigation should be planned. Most web users are impatient people. If a site is hard to understand because the links aren’t clear, they will immediately click away. You navigate a website one screen at a time. A reader who gets lost or confused in is likely to hit the “Back” button. Therefore, creating a navigation system that makes the reader feel comfortable, and allows them to find the content they want quickly, is critical to the success of any website. Website navigation is a key element for determining a website’s effectiveness. In our next blog we take a look at some of the fundamental principles of good navigation design.