Designing a Strategic Website Series: Designing a Strategic Navigation

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Today you’re listening to the very first bonus episode in the Designing a Strategic Website series. Today we’re talking about designing a strategic navigation. I discuss choosing the right links for your main navigation, strategically leading visitors through your website, designing a footer that keeps people on your website longer, and use for a sidebar and what you should include and leave out.

Tune in for the next six weeks to learn more about designing a strategic website – we’re going to cover a different component or page of your website each week.

Topics Discussed:

  • Choosing the right links for your main navigation
  • Strategically leading visitors through your website
  • Designing a footer that keeps people on your website
  • Uses for a sidebar and what to include

Action Steps

  1. Update your main navigation with standard link names
  2. Remove any links that you don’t need in your main navigation
  3. Take advantage of your footer by adding other important links

Tips for designing strategic website navigation

Main Menu

The main menu of your website (the one at the top) is the first thing people will see when they visit your website and it's important that you design it strategically to support your business.

When thinking about what to include here, limit the number of links in your main navigation to 7. If you can use less than 7, that's awesome, but don't use anymore as it will confuse visitors and be overwhelming.

Use standard language or keywords (like home, about, blog) so people know what to expect when they click a link. If you do want to use more branded language, make sure that it's clear what page a visitor will be taken to when they click the link - no surprises.

Avoid drop down menus when possible. They aren't good for SEO (because search engines can't read something that's hidden on a page) and visitors may skip important pages as they're quickly hovering over items without paying attention to what's in the drop down menu. If you need a drop down menu, make it large so visitors take time to look at the options and make sure the top item goes to a page when clicked (instead of not doing anything).

When you think about laying out your navigation items, order them in the way someone moves through your website (usually home > about > services > blog > contact) and keep it simple with short words.

As you look into how people are using your website, you can make some changes to your main menu based on analytics:

  • Remove items that are rarely clicked if they aren’t critical
  • Rename items that are rarely clicked
  • Move items that are clicked often to the beginning

Mobile Navigation

Because so many people are visiting websites on their mobile devices, you need to make sure that your navigation is optimized for mobile. The industry standard is to use a hamburger menu (three horizontal lines in an upper corner of the screen) that opens to reveal the menu options. If you're using Squarespace, this the pre-designed layout, but there are still design tweaks you can make. For other platforms, you may need to add one or make sure it's part of your template.

Navigation within Your Website

How people move through your website will impact whether or not they ultimately take action.

Your goal when designing your website is to create a journey that gives them all the information they need to take the next step (without throwing everything at them all at once). The best way to do this is to map out how visitors move from landing on your website for the first time to actually buying a a product, signing up for your email list, or getting in touch with you.

Once you know where they need to go, create a call-to-action at the end of each page or blog post to direct visitors to the next step.

  • Here are a few more ways to make navigating through your website easy:
  • Make popular options like blog categories easy to find
  • Have a specific page for posts on your main topics or include links on your home page
  • Include a search bar
  • Put the items you want to be known for in the most visited locations
  • When you mention one page or post on another page, link to it (a bonus here is that is helps with SEO as you're showing search engines how your website works)
  • Make it easy for visitors to see other pages they’re interested in by including a list of related posts at the bottom of blog posts for visitors who don’t want to opt-in or take another action

Footer Navigation

Use your footer strategically as it can be a great place to promote important links and actions. Start by choosing your main goal and include a call-to-action that supports it. Then you can add other important items that people look for frequently, such as:

  • Search bar
  • Social media links
  • Navigation to main pages
  • Policies link
  • Site credits (designer, photographer, etc.)

Sidebar

Not all blogs need a sidebar, but if you have a large or very popular blog, it could be helpful for visitors. If you are going to have a sidebar, make sure to choose items that support your overall website goal and don't distract visitors or take them away from your website. These are the items you should include:

  • Headshot and bio
  • Search bar
  • Popular posts or categories
  • Something that supports your main website goal (like a newsletter sign-up or link to a freebie)

Just as there are some items that need to be on your sidebar for it to be an effective part of your website, there are some items that should be left off:

  • High-priced services or products (visitors aren't ready for this commitment yet)
  • Blog post archives by date (people don't read blogs this way anymore)
  • Ads that take people away from your website

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