Good website navigation is a basic requirement for any business website. A recent study about online shopping from Big Commerce asked about what factors influence shoppers to buy online.
Not surprisingly, the first one is the 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%)
- 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. It doesn’t show up at the top of this list because is a basic expectation from any website.
Website navigation should combine several elements of the interface and website functionality. The ultimate goal is to help users to find information that will allow them to take desired actions.
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. It can tell you where they are falling off, but sometimes it is unclear how to fix any problems you may find. Therefore, to understand why shoppers are abandoning the transaction and find a solution for that, you need to do usability testing to observe and talk to shoppers/users as they navigate the site.
10 Usability Guidelines For Website Navigation
1. Website Navigation Design Pattern
Does the navigation design (tabs, megamenus, accordions, carousels, etc.) help users to find and discover what they need?
2. Mental Models
Are users’ expectations of how the site should work met?
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 achieving the users’ goal?
6. Menu Visibility
Is the menu for key activities hidden? Does opening a menu require motor skill effort?
7. Menu Options
Do the menu choices 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 paths to get to a certain part of the website? Do they confuse users not knowing where to start?
9. Website 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?
In conclusion, 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.