10 Things To Consider When Testing Website Navigation

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Usability Testing


A recent study about online shopping from Big Commerce asked about what factors influence shoppers to buy online. Not surprisingly, the first one is price (87%). After price, the other 6 factors influencing purchase decisions are related to different aspects of the service or the product/brand: shipping cost (87%), product variety (71%), discount offers (71%), trustworthy reviews (68%), return policy (68%), and brand reputation (67%).


Once these key aspects of the service are considered, the user experience kicks in. Over 6 out of 10 (64%) shoppers mentioned “Simple site navigation” as a factor influencing their decision to buy. If you want people to buy, you have to make it easy for them to find what they are looking for. There is nothing new about that.


How do you know your website navigation is optimal? Web-analytics can give you clues that something is wrong by looking at the paths shoppers take to finalize a transaction, and where they are falling off, but that doesn’t necessarily tell you how to fix any problems you may find.


To understand why shoppers are abandoning the transaction and find a solution for that, you need to do usability testing, you need to observe and talk to shoppers/users as they navigate the site.

Website navigation combines several elements on the interface for the ultimate goal of helping users to find information and functionality that will allow them to take desired actions.


Here are 10 usability elements to consider when you are testing navigation:

1. Navigation design pattern: Does the navigation design (tabs, megamenus, accordions, carousels, etc.) help users to find and discover what they need?


2. Mental models: Does the navigation match users’ expectations of how the site should work?


3. Meaning of icons and labels: Are the symbols and terminology used easily understood or do they need translation?


4. Information relevancy: How relevant for the transaction is the information shown? Is there any visual clutter preventing users from focusing on what’s important in the path they need to follow?


5. Cognitive strain: How much reading, remembering, and decision making is required along the path to achieve the users’ goal?


6. Menu visibility: Is the menu for key activities hidden? Does opening a menu require motor skill effort?


7. Menu options: Are the menu options offering choices that guide users as quickly as possible to their expected destination? Are there too many or too few options? Are they readable?


8. Link redundancy: Are there too many options to get to a certain part of the website? Do they confuse users not knowing where to start?


9. Navigation steps: How many steps/pages do users have to go through to arrive at their final destination? Are there any steps preventing users to continue? Can they be eliminated?


10. Search function & filters: Should there be a search function on the site? Are users able to find what they are looking for using a search function? What filters would help users to find what they are looking for?


Website navigation is essential to the user experience. Do not ignore it. Strive to make it better with the help of usability testing. The learnings and improvements you could make will pay many times over what you invest in testing.

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