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Top 8 Golden Rules for An Effective Navigation Bar

Top 8 Golden Rules for An Effective Navigation Bar

When people and search engines go through your website, the easiest way for them to get one place to another is via an effective navigation bar. In this case, generating an easy-to-manage navigation menu is pretty essential for improving the reading experiences of your visitors and the proper indexing by search engines.

To give you more inspirations on this aspect, we’d like to list the top 8 golden rules when designing the navigation for your website.

Rule No.1 – Keep Labels As Simple and Informative As Possible

First of all, you need to always bear in mind that the labels you are using for your navigation bar should be some simple texts that can fully describe the target webpages. Ideally, each label can have no more than three words in total.

As for the selection of anchor texts, you need to avoid the broad words that may lead to the confusion. For instance, the utilization of “fishing equipment” is undoubtedly better than using “equipment” purely.

Rule No.2 – Pay Attention to the Principle of “Consistency”

To be frank, consistency can be a golden rule for a proper navigation design. After all, the majority of readers do not like any surprise when browsing a website, so it is critical for keeping the navigation bar totally same throughout the whole site. To achieve this principle, you can check the following tips.

  • Visually Identical – You need to ensure that the icons, labels, colors and any other visual components are totally the same in each webpage.
  • Navigation Position – Just like the appearance of the navigation bar, the location of it should always be fixed. This way, even the new readers who are entering your site for the first time can get accustomed to your overall structure with much ease.

Consistency Principle

Rule No.3 – Focus on Simplicity

It is worth noting that both human beings and searching spiders hate to go through a website that requires a long switching time from one page to another.

According to our online survey, around 86% of Internet users have a hard time in keeping more than 3 items in one time. This means if they cannot access their target pages within 3 clicks at the maximum, they may feel confused about your website structure. Therefore, having your navigation as simple as possible is pretty important.

Rule No.4 – Use the Dropdown Menu Strategically

If you website is a large one that contains a tremendous number of posts categorized into plenty of groups, it is recommended to include the dropdowns into your navigation bar so that readers can reach their targets with the best efficiency. However, it does not mean that you can embed the dropdowns freely just like the following screenshot.

Use Dropdown Menu Strategically

This is a wrong example for the truly effective dropdown menu, presenting too many items to scare readers for hovering over the link. Besides, this large-scale dropdown also results in a negative effect on the overall appearance of your site. Even, if readers are using the smartphone to enter your site, this dropdown menu won’t work.

Actually, for a large and information-rich site that needs to embed the dropdown menu into the navigation, the best way is to compress the dropdown options as much as possible. This way, readers can find their targets easily via the relatively broad groups and categorizations without being overwhelmed by the flooded dropdown items.

Role No.5 – Consider the Utilization of Icons

To make your navigation bar more fun-to-use and personal, you can consider using icons along with the word links for each label. After all, people are more impressed by some visual things than the pure words, so the embedding of icons can increase their recognition on your content categories, thus can browse you site in a more effective manner. As for how to add icons to your navigation menu, you can check this post.

However, the point is that you must choose some meaningful and clear icons that can represent your contents greatly and can match your website design.

Icons on Navigation

Rule No.6 – Embed the Path Breadcrumbs

There is a great function that your navigation bar should achieve – it has to be powerful enough to tell your readers where they are at any time, helping them figure out their current pages are in what relation to the rest of your site. To achieve this, you can consider the following two situations.

  • If your site is a simple one without the complicated hierarchy, you can help your readers identify their currently-visited pages by highlighting the labels on the navigation menu.
  • If your site is complex, you’d better combine your navigation with a visual layout to indicate the current webpage. Take the following screenshot as an example. The navigation bar displays the path to the webpage in a way as “Home > Electronics > Video > TV > Samsung 52-Inch”. This layout is called as the trail of breadcrumbs.

Trail of breadcrumbs

Rule No.7 – Position the Navigation Bar on the Upper Place

Habitually, people are reading your content from the top to the bottom. Therefore, they always expect the informational links on the upper place.

Besides, as the majority of websites place the navigation bar on the top of the whole webpages and people simply get used to the positioning, locating your navigation at anywhere else may affect the reading experiences negatively.

Rule No.8 – Locate the Call to Actions on the Right

People use their right hand to click the mouse, so naturally expect some call-to-action buttons on the right side of the navigation bar. In this case, it is recommended to place the labels such as “Contact Us” and “Buy Now” at the right place.

However, there is an exception. As moving left means moving backward, you’d better place the “Go Home” button at the left side for it brings readers from the current location to the earliest stage.