The navigation on your site is one of the key issues affecting usability, so it’s quite important to get it right.
Generally, a menu is expected to be either to the left of the copy or across the page horizontally underneath the masthead (your brand).
If the menu is horizontally above the masthead it’s probably so far above most people’s natural eyeline when connecting with the screen that some won’t even see it and will leave in frustration.
If it’s on the right, people don’t recognise it as a menu. Menus on the left have the added plus that they sit right where the search engine spider scans as these tend to scan from top left down and then back up working from left to right rather than from side to side starting at the top. This means that the first thing with information that it finds is your menu and all your pages. Horizontal menus are less search engine friendly.
Menu choices should be logical, obvious and not quirky or obscure – as Steve Krug says ‘Don’t make me think’!
The menu should not be so long that it extends below ‘the fold’, lazy web surfers won’t be bothered to scroll down and may completely miss some of the choices. Also very long menus tend to overwhelm – give people the information a bit at a time!
Structure your website so that pages are grouped together and have an entry page rather than have every page accessible directly from the home page. So a ‘services’ page and a ‘products’ page, with the individual items with their own sub pages.
Hyperlinks in the call to action are a great way to get instant click throughs (and get the knee jerk response that having to scroll back to look at the menu doesn’t), but don’t confuse people with more than 2-3 links to choose from at a time.
Getting the navigation right will make a huge difference to how long people stay on your site and the number of pages they visit.
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