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Why Your Navigation Is The First Thing We'll Work On

The process of web design, for us at least, can typically be grouped into two distinct categories: a website re-design, or a brand new website. Each takes a little bit different thinking and strategy, but each has the same starting point - the main navigation.

Whether we're working with existing content or starting from scratch, the overall navigation is what will dictate the flow of the website and will be what guides users along the intended path. A good navigation will accomplish the goals of the site, such as encouraging a potential customer to make a purchase, fill out a contact form, or simply gather the information they were searching for. Without a strong navigation, users can become confused, frustrated, and turned off from your website in seconds. We say this a lot in terms of search engines, that "content is king," but content is truly the basis for everything, and your main navigation is how you will get users to read and discover your content in the first place. 

A large portion of our time spent on developing new websites is actually spent developing the content and placing it in the right spot. At the start of any new project, we always ask our clients the same initial question...what do you foresee the items in your main navigation will be? This will serve as our main outline for the site, and help bring much needed clarity to the website design. From there we begin collecting, analyzing, and sorting content to see if the original outline holds true. In many cases, once the content is collected it makes sense to do some reorganizing of the main navigation in order to create a better flow for the site.

Here are a few tips for nailing down a successful navigation.

  • Do your research - Decide who your target audience is and what you think your users will be searching for. While keywords won't always be what your menu items are, simply knowing what "categories" your users will be drawn to may help you get off to a quick start. The words you use in your menu should make sense to potential users, and quickly give an idea of what they can expect to find on your website.

  • Determine your organization - You'll need to determine how you want your content organized. Do you need drop downs? If so, will the top item be clickable or non-clickable? Do you want your menu to contain categories of products or specific products? Do you need a main menu and a sub menu? Often times simply deciding on how you want those menu items structured can take longer than you think.

  • Decide if you're reusing content, or starting over from scratch - If you're going to be writing all new content for a brand new website, you want to make sure your goals are clearly defined, and go from there. Start by figuring out what your overarching ideas or offerings are, and nail down which pages you will for sure need. If you're reusing content from an existing website, this is where it can get tricky to weed out what's unneccsary, and determine what would ultimately work better than what you have now.

  • Test it! - If you're unsure of how you've laid out your navigation, ask a few of your peers to test it out. See if it makes sense to them, or if different verbiage or a different layout would be better.

  • Think about how MUCH content you have - The amount of actual content you have, or hope to have, can highly dictate your pages, which then dictates your menu items. If you have two drop downs under a top menu item, but each only has a paragraph of copy a piece, it might be a good idea to think about consolidating those two pages into one page, and doing away with the drop down. Little tweaks like this are sometimes what can hold up a project's completion so it's best to sort it out early.

You can't have a (successful) website without content, and your main menu should quickly and effectively direct your users to the content they want. If you'd like help restructuring your website, organizing your content, or starting a new website altogether, we'd love to help. Fill out our Get Started form today, or stop by and say hi!

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