The dos and don’ts of website menus:
How to make NAVIGATING your site as easy as possible
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Are you working on a web redesign or building your first website from scratch?
Do you have a site you love but you’re not sure your web visitors are getting to the information they need, quickly and easily?
Are your web visitors not taking action where you need them to?
I have project managed web designs for companies large and small. From large cultural institutions like Jacob’s Pillow Dance to small, growing businesses like Dancio, and individual artists and scholars like Maura Keefe.
I’ve seen a great many issues and missteps when it comes to building a website menu.
No matter the size of your company, learn from these website menu tips – some dos and don’ts to provide greater clarity to your web visitor and avoid overloading them with choice (because then they won’t take action!)
Do: Research the Needs of your Ideal User
Really think about the “everyday” user of your site.
A well-designed website structure not only considers your user’s perspective but bends to and accommodates your user’s perspective.
That’s right. Not only do you need to consider your user’s point of view in the process of developing what goes onto your site in the first place, you also need to incorporate and activate that knowledge.
The best way to do this, of course, is to survey and evaluate. Gather a group of potential clients and ask them what they would want to know by visiting your website for your soon-to-launch consulting business. Ask a slice of your current ticket buyers what they look for on your website now, and what they wish they could find. Look at your Google Analytics and see what pages people are visiting and what paths they take to seek information.
By putting in the time to do this extra bit of research with your audience in mind, you’ll find you are adding or revising your list of what goes on the website before you get to organizing your menu.
Do: Group Information to Limit Menu Items
You probably already created a list of pages you need your website to contain. Now, do you notice any patterns in these pages? Start categorizing and reorganizing!
Try grouping content together on the same page. Can you cover your About You and your About the Team in one page? Or at least mostly? Now you have About Us!
Group content into overarching themes. Do you offer four distinct services to your clients? And you need a page for each? Create one page leading to the four distinct services so you only need one menu item for all four. You can call it Services or Client Programs in your menu.
Don’t: Use Jargon or Get Too Clever
Designing your website is a creative process, and being creative is fun!
Just don’t get too fun on me, people.
Using cutesy titles or internal program names is going to confuse users more than stand out as unique. In my first ever personal website (for my choreography), my Events page was called “Hang Out” or something equally vague and terrible. I don’t even remember, guys – it was that bad.
No one knew what that tab on my site meant, and that means no one visited it. If you need to explain where things are, your menu doesn’t work.
It’s not just “creative” page titles that confuse users. If the names of your services or offerings are not common knowledge, they aren’t going to be helpful markers of your services online.
Yes, even if these names are so common knowledge in the office that you started using acronyms for short.
Say you have a program that gives free treats to neighborhood dogs called “Give a Dog a Bone,” but you refer to it in-house as GADAB. If you include GADAB as a page on your main menu, no one will go there. No one will know what you mean.
Be careful to re-think what’s known internally and what’s easy to decipher outside your company’s walls.
Don’t: Go Crazy with Drop Downs
I highly encourage you to watch this incredible presentation on the death of the drop down by Eric Campbell of Pandora and Golden Krishna of Google. (Warning for those of you who are sensitive to swearing: Even the title contains an adult word.)
Designing a good experience on mobile means limiting your use of drop downs. In gathering information from your user and in helping them navigate your site.
And remember, we should always be designing a good experience on mobile!
Don’t: Cram in Every Little Thing
Even if you find a clever design method to avoid using tons of drop downs in your site menu, you should still avoid trying to fit in every little thing. The reality is: your website is a home for essential information on your company, but it can never be expected to answer every question that will ever come up about what you do and who you are.
Users will contact you if they can’t find what they need.
Yes, you can anticipate some of these questions, or even field them for a while and recognize when they are frequently asked and respond accordingly (hello, new FAQs page on your website!) You can see patterns in the pathways your users take in analytics. You can add or subtract information as your work evolves.
But you do not have to include everything. If you do, you’re sure to overwhelm anyone who visits.
Ready to transform your website?
Refresh your Website in 3 easy steps with my online master class!
We’ll walk through easy web fixes that ensure your audience is finding the right (and most compelling!!) information on your site. Class includes a 1-hr video workshop & custom workbook.
Still have questions?
Contact me if you want to talk about your website – and if you’re in need of a complete web makeover, we’ll design yours from top to bottom.
I strategize, consult and manage digital marketing and communications for small businesses, creatives, artists and nonprofit organizations. I’m based in Brooklyn, because I have a thing for exposed brick, cozy, local coffee shops and the can’t stop, won’t stop energy of New York.
Because I work with small companies, I get the chance to really know my clients – what makes them tick and how and why they should stand out in a crowded marketplace. A lot of my clients have a smaller staff, a limited budget and are already stretched thin for time. This leads us to tailor marketing strategies and solutions to each company’s unique needs and actual capacity.