Website Navigation: A Maze or a Seamless Experience?

By Alexa Haferkorn, Web Design Specialist at Packerland Websites
Have you ever opened a website and felt like you were walking into a maze? You may have an idea of what you need to find, but getting there is a challenge. Between buttons, hamburger menus, drop-down lists, and image links, the many ways to navigate a website can be overwhelming when not implemented correctly. Not only is this frustrating for the visitor, but as a business owner, you never want your potential customers to get lost on their way to the checkout!

A mom pushing a shopping cart with her daughter to represent how website navigation is like a supermarket.

Organize Web Pages like a Supermarket

Whether or not your website is an online store, organizing your web pages can be a lot like setting up a supermarket. You want visitors to be able to walk in, follow clear signs, and narrow down the area where they’ll find the right product. At Packerland Websites, we aim to make finding information on your site as easy as grabbing a jar of peanut butter from your local Piggly Wiggly.

Create an Intuitive User Journey

As web developers, we have many tools at our disposal to build this customer journey. You may have heard of the terms “UI” or “UX” which stand for “user interface” and “user experience” respectively. These terms refer to the way users interact with a product (in this case, the product is your website) and how they feel, think, and act based on the way the product is designed. A good UI uses text, colors, and other visual cues to clearly direct users to different areas of the site. This creates a high-quality UX in which users feel confident navigating the site and satisfied with how quickly they can find what they’re looking for.

Design the Optimal Website Traffic Flow

Before we dive into designing the look of the website experience, we need to make sure we have a solid structure to build on. After all, a skillfully designed “Dairy” sign won’t do much good in your supermarket if you keep cheese in the cracker aisle and butter with the baking ingredients. This is where our website traffic design comes in. We look at ALL of the information on your site, analyze how visitors are meant to use this information, and design the quickest and easiest paths for your customer to get from the home page to their final destination. This requires not only organizational skills, but also empathy and understanding for the typical website user.

Direct Users with Call-to-Action

Many websites have one primary goal, or Call-to-Action (CTA), along with several secondary goals or information. The CTA is our starting point for how we direct traffic through the site. It might be something like “Shop,” “Donate,” or “Call Us”. We want the path to this action to be as quick and easy as possible for the user so they don’t get confused or frustrated and leave before the action is completed. A good CTA is on the front page in clear, bold text or with an eye-catching visual to make it the most important item on the page.

Map out Goals with Website Navigation Menu

Mapping out the secondary (and even tertiary!) goals of your website is where things can get a little hairy, because we have multiple goals that need to be equally available to users. To achieve this, almost every website has a navigation menu at the top of the page with a list of page links to visit. Many of our sites start with 4-7 page links in the main website navigation menu. If there are more than 7 pages on the website, we start grouping the links under larger topics. For instance, if your website has a page for Window Installation and another page for Door Installation, it would make sense to group these two pages under one item called Installation Services in the main menu. Sure, this adds another step for the user who will need to click on Installation Services before seeing the Door Installation page they want to view. But by narrowing down their options in the main menu and using clear labels to direct their next click, we’ve actually made it simpler for them to find the page they need.

Present Clear Website Navigation Options

As your website company, we serve you best by designing a product that your customers will enjoy using. Attractive visuals and unique features are great, but often overlooked is the importance of designing the flow of traffic through a website. As UI Engineer Jared Spool once said, “Good design, when done well, should be invisible.” Our goal is to make navigating your website so intuitive that the user will barely think about it, allowing them to focus on what really matters: your business!