Article by David Gordon; Web Designer, Internet Marketing Expert and CEO, www.naaip.org
websites are known for many things…look and feel, content delivery, and not to forget, their navigation system. In today’s internet age, navigation system of a website is like the limbs of the website.
Can you imagine a person without any limbs? Similarly, a website without a navigation system or a poor navigation system is handicapped to a large extent.
We might have been able to establish that navigation systems are important, but the exact importance of navigation in web design is outlined below: As the name suggests, navigation systems act as a navigator for users to move around the website. A good navigation system can help promote the right pages to the users. It is extremely difficult to guess where relevant content might be located without the help of a navigation system.
Navigation systems need to be intuitive. A good designer will understand that you need to outguess the action of the users and that will help users get the full benefit of visiting the website. Many websites are for education purposes... it becomes imperative that the navigation system makes sure that the users get what they are looking for without getting lost.
Navigation can also form a very important part of the website design. In fact, most websites designs revolve around the navigation system itself. New technologies such as Flash and AJAX now add navigation systems which are very interactive and provide some very interesting design concepts. Some of the world’s best websites are the ones which are very simple in design and use the navigation system to create a concept. Making a navigation system which is not consistent can result in poor usage of the website as well as contribute to poor website designing.
A good navigation system also helps in placing websites prominently on search engines. This is important since online marketing is one of the key ways to attract users (and subsequently business) to your website. Good programming techniques can ensure that search engines look within the navigation structure as well to index pages.
Navigation and Website Usability
If you are still not convinced that a navigation system plays a key role in the health of a website, then a quick look at usability guides published by various website design companies and web design authorities highlight navigation within the first three points of consideration which evaluating a website for usability. Some of the recommendations with regards to navigation systems for web design are:
Text based links are preferred for navigation structure rather than graphical links. Not only do they display well, they are easy for the search engines to look up.
A Multi-tier navigation structure is recommended for complex website. This provides excellent level of ease of use. It also allows the users to jump from one link to another without going through various unrelated pages.
Online studies have shown that one of the most effective navigation structures are the ones which are left hand oriented or top down.
Navigation structure should remain uniform through out the website. It should not change with the change of sections. Changes in navigation system can result in dis-orienting a user within a website.
There should not be too many navigations systems within a website. A major navigation system and a minor navigation system is the maximum which should exist in a website.
There are some excellent navigation structures which can be found online. If you plan to design your website soon, make sure that you pay special attention to the navigation structure deployed on your website to ensure maximum benefit to your users!