12 Navigation Ideas To Give Your Website ‘Story’ A Happy Ending

Every good story has a beginning, middle and end. It starts with the set-up, moves into the conflict and wraps up with the resolution, or climax. In the story of online marketing, each visitor to your website follows the same pattern – a beginning (What brought them there?), a conflict (Will they find the information […]

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Every visitor to your site is a story. Give that story a happy ending!

Every good story has a beginning, middle and end. It starts with the set-up, moves into the conflict and wraps up with the resolution, or climax.

In the story of online marketing, each visitor to your website follows the same pattern – a beginning (What brought them there?), a conflict (Will they find the information they are looking for?) and a climax (What will they decide to do?).

However, unlike a good story, which relies on conflict to create the action, you want smooth sailing when people land on your site.

In fact, when it comes to getting conversions, the less conflict the better.

One of the easiest ways to reduce conflict on your site and drive visitors to the conversion point is to build a strong navigational experience.

Implementing a well-designed site navigation helps visitors identify the content and information that most interests them and pushes them toward a positive resolution.

Every navigational step your visitors take will be either a step closer or a step further away from the conclusion you’re hoping for.

How To Reduce Navigational Conflict

The single most important way to minimize your navigational conflict is to ensure it’s usable. Sounds overly simplistic, I know, but that’s because it is. Sometimes what seems usable to you (or anyone who is too close to the website) isn’t necessarily usable to visitors who may not have experienced your site before. Any usability roadblocks will reduce the impact your navigation has on the visitor.

A convoluted, confusing or broken navigation will often lead to the quickest story resolution of them all – site abandonment. While that might play well on the best sellers list, it doesn’t help wrack up the big bucks for your site!

Site-wide navigation – including top, bottom and side navigation – must be as user-friendly as possible. This is a case where visitors want the story on your site to fit similar stories they’ve experienced on other sites.

Therefore, you have to give them what they expect and, countering everything we know about a good story, the resolution must be obvious.

Here are 12 ways to create a better navigational story that improves conversion rates:

  • Implement a strong navigational structure. Navigation must provide intuitive and obvious links to other main sections and areas of the website. If you don’t help your visitors find the information they want, they can’t buy it!
  • Keep your primary navigation obvious. The location of your site’s primary navigation should be near the top and/or left side of the page. Navigation isn’t expected in other places, so don’t force your visitors to hunt it down.
  • Make finding information easy. Your navigation should be designed to help people find information. Don’t hide important categories behind layers of drop-down navigation. Display it clearly before any navigational links are used. You should also avoid using hard-to-navigate drop-down or fly-out menus. Make the sale as easy as possible by eliminating these frustrations.
  • Be clear as to which page the visitor is viewing. Visitors should always be able to tell what page they are on and where that page falls in the directory tree. Breadcrumbs are the easiest way to display this information in a clean, easy-to-understand format.
  • Let visitors know which pages they have viewed. While this may not be aesthetically pleasing (and therefore disregarded) in the site’s main navigation, it can easily be accomplished in a visually appealing way in your body copy and/or footer navigation. Letting visitors know where they have been prevents looping around to repeated content and instead drives the visitor to the next step in the conversion process.
  • Clearly display your site name. Your top navigation must provide an immediate indication as to what site the visitor is on (just like a book). Don’t tease the visitor or make them search for your logo. Put it at the top left where they expect it to be.
  • Add a link in your logo image. Even if you have a link to your home page in your primary navigation, your logo should also link back to your home page. Visitors routinely use this as a shortcut rather than hunting for the home button.
  • Have an obvious link to your homepage. Even if you already have a link to your homepage in your logo, each page must contain an obvious home link or button. Keep it consistent from page to page so visitors know where to look.
  • Display visible contact information. Your navigation should include access to a “contact us” page and/or display specific contact information (such as a phone number) at or near the top of the page. Contact links and information should be in a consistent location on every page throughout the site. If visitors don’t feel like you’re easy to reach, they will hesitate to purchase from you.
  • Implement a site search feature. For large sites, an internal search box can assist your potential customers with finding relevant information quickly. Search boxes allow visitors to skip the navigation altogether and go directly to what they want. If used, the search box is best located on the top right of all site pages and must always return relevant results.
  • Make it easy to log in. Sites with shopping carts, user accounts or member-only access must provide an easy-to-locate login link. This link should be accessible on every page of the site.
  • Make it easy to log out. Once logged in, the user must be able to log out quickly and easily. Maintain a logout link or button in an obvious location on every page, allowing the visitor to keep their information secure.

When you implement a well-structured and developed navigation system on your site, your compelling website story helps lead visitors in the direction they want to go.

The strong visual cues I’ve mentioned indicate the depth of content you have available. This alone can be an immediate first-impression indicator of trust, an important factor in acquiring new business.

Even more important – when a site’s navigation is intelligent, focused and intuitive, there is less on-site conflict. This means visitors have to think less and are able to find what they want with minimal guesswork or backtracking. And, that may be exactly what brings visitors closer and closer to the happy ending (the conversion!) you want most for your website story.

Image credit: pixelbliss / 123RF Stock Photo

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About the author

Stoney deGeyter
Stoney deGeyter is author of The Best Damn Web Marketing Checklist, Period! and CEO of Pole Position Marketing, a leading web presence optimization firm since 1998.

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