Web Navigation: Understanding The Roadmap of UX

An integral element to the aspect of usability on a website is the design of it’s core navigation. This is the system of parts that helps a user move around the experience, helping them find what they need, get deeper into information and complete a task.

When a user first comes to a site, it’s much like they are traveling streets in a city they’ve never been before. There is a clear reason for the visit, whether business or leisure, but in order to get to where they need to go, they must be led by visual cues. These visual cues must be in the right order and delivered to the user in clear terms to create a pathway to their final destination.

A solid set of principles can help to drive navigation that fosters user connection, engages new users and heightens conversion:

Create An Organizational Strategy

Taking into consideration the importance of site architecture, a system of organization relative to the content should be built from the start. Navigation tends to work best when constructed parallel to the informational framework of a website. If working with detailed or high amounts of content – subjects and categories should be pared down to the highest levels and sub categories built upon into their own hierarchical structures. Be careful not to bury information where it is not easily found, especially content that has been tested at a high click rate. This is most essential for ecommerce platforms where a conversion is only gained when information is found.

Use Your Intuition

All elements should be highly intuitive. The user needs to know what to expect in language they can quickly understand, so save the bells and whistles for video or social platforms. Navigation should be the guiding force to allow the user to quickly see what information is available and where to go to find what they’re looking for – without thinking twice.

Apply The Right Aesthetic

A trending visual style such as the hidden or hamburger menu might look impressive, however, it must first align with the needs of the user and align with the design of the site. A minimalist approach, while appealing for photography and graphic elements may not be appropriate for the needs of the menu and navigational requirements of the site it represents. A clean, detailed system of navigation even with a great deal of content can match to a simplistic design.

Drive Consistency

If working with a multiple page interface, ensure that all pages use the same navigation model. Grid the design so it does not shift from page to page and remains a solid constant as a user moves throughout the experience. If designed well, this will create a heightened level of conversion as a user feels comfortable to move about the site freely, always knowing they can get back to a main home point. Along with consistent visual elements, make sure contextual language remains similar throughout in the same tense and tone (humorous, informational, friendly, etc).

Design for Accessibility

Navigation should work seamlessly across platform and systems. Ensure that information is readable even with older browsers, on mobile devices, disabled javascript and for those who might have difficulty reading. In many cases responsive design is the best route to ensure this usability across all users.

As with any usability strategy, testing is key to determine the ideal approach for both visual and contextual delivery. Once an initial version of the site is launched, conduct ongoing and regular testing to uncover stuck spots or areas that are working well. Optimize and implement initiatives with both analytic and creative approaches for the most authentic user experience.

Vanessa Petersen

As Executive Director of Brand Strategy based in ArtVersion’s Portland office, Vanessa manages both national and West Coast accounts. She brings with her a passion for strategy with extensive experience in creative marketing, brand growth and development. She is a true advocate of storytelling and brand building from the inside out, and her keen knowledge of the marketplace, trend patterns and usability lead her to identify opportunities that can inspire powerful design strategies.

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