How to find (and solve) navigation issues on your website

7 min read Optimal Workshop

Making your navigation work harder

There are many ways that your website can work wonderfully and of course the converse is very true. There are lots of (simple) ways a website isn’t working as well or as hard as it can. Your website navigation is crucial to creating a brilliant user experience (UX). As well as being visible to search engine crawls. Completing the circle by making your website more visible to potential users.

You’ve got a strong homepage, it’s modern, clean, bright and tells your story just right. But your conversions just don’t seem to be happening? Have you considered your navigation? No, not only the menu at the top of your website, but your Information Architecture (IA) sitting in behind. And not just this, but how it is used, interacted with and navigated by your users?

Even if you haven’t already identified an issue with your website it can be super valuable to test your usability regularly. Moments like; building a new website, re-building or even adding or removing content can be times when navigation changes can impact how your website performs. And also can be a great instigator for testing and improving. There are some very effective tools to help with finding navigational issues, and with great data and insights shining the way to better sorting and ordering.

What is website navigation?

Simply put, website navigation is the links within your website that connect the pages. The purpose is for users to find what they need on your website. And importantly it is also used by search engines to discover and index the content housed on your website.

Search engines use links between pages to understand context and relationships between pages. Ultimately building a picture of what your website is about and who would want to see it, and why. 

Whilst strong SEO is vital to finding users, it is always best to make sure your users come first. If your website only talks to search engines it is unlikely to really speak ‘human’ and do what it is intended, make conversions. Users first, search engines after.

Let’s explore some common navigational issues and how great UX research can solve them.

Your Information Architecture

Your website Information Architecture (IA) is always important to consider when you are designing, re-ordering, or adding or removing content from your website. How content is stored, ordered and found will impact the UX and the performance of your website SEO. Using a card sorting tool to research how users expect information and content to be sorted, stored and found can be vitally important to how effective your website is. Optimalsort is a quick and effective tool to establish where and how users expect information to be sorted.

Building intuitive IA and making sure navigation is simple to follow will ensure your users are confident and comfortable making their way through your website. Understanding where they can find the information they need and progressing to the next step.

As well as understanding the order of content with card sorting, combined with our tree-testing tool, Treejack, it can be incredibly useful to understand where users expect information to be found. Looking at how users interact with your website, where they look for information and where they get lost is all great stuff! 

Using these insights will keep them on your website longer, more likely to see the task through. And let’s not forget that search engines love it when your website is performing, keeping users longer with strong content that is seen as relevant.

Content hierarchy

The order of your content is important. This can be how content is stored and the order of your navigation and creating intuitive IA. But can also be as simple as where navigational sign posts are. 

It seems obvious, but there is a case for keeping the most important information at the top of drop down menus, and where you want users to take action. Studies show that attention and retention are highest for things that appear at the beginning and at the end of lists.

This is why ‘Contact’ should always be found at the top right corner, the last on the list and in a standard, expected location. Keeping this in mind when creating the order of your pages and what you want your users to interact with will inform your structure.

How is your website used, now

Understanding exactly how your website is used currently and identifying areas that need to be improved will lead to much stronger user experience (UX). Usability testing should be an essential part of ongoing research for your website success.

One of the biggest issues with website usability is building intuitive navigation. If your users can’t find their way through your website to complete a task, they’re not going to try too hard. They’re far more likely to abandon and find another website (organisation) that makes it easy. Great navigation should act as a simple to follow map from landing page through to task completion. 

Using a research tool like Reframer can allow you to test how users complete tasks across your website. Following their journey from their first interaction through to task completion. The data will provide insights into how users engage, navigate and complete their tasks (or don’t). Where do they get stuck, lost or confused? How do they feel (even down to their body language)? How quickly can they find what they are looking for? And the next step?

All great stuff to inform the design team to build an engaging, usable website.

Homepage expectations

Your users already have set expectations when they arrive on your website. They anticipate your website to look and behave in a regular way that makes navigation, and their decisions, easy. Simple design features, such as your navigation menu across the top of the page, with clear options. It is vital to make life simple and easy when it comes to navigating your website. 

Creating an interface that looks clear, is easy and quick to follow will build trust and engagement quickly (remember the 2 second rule). Simple to follow navigation, including descriptive labels, can make completing tasks much simpler and quicker for your users. Guiding them smoothly through your website and ultimately to conversion.

Confusing homepage navigation 

Your homepage is the hardest working page on your website. It’s the first place (most) users will interact with you and it is make or break. 

Did you know? You have less than 2 seconds to grab users with a well designed, organised and simple homepage. If they don’t immediately know what to do, trust what they see and get started they will move on (to someone else).

Increased bounce rate does the converse for your SEO. With a homepage that users bounce away from you are likely to see a drop in SEO rankings, meaning ultimately you will see less users!

Did you know that 87% of people that find themselves on the right path after the first click will complete their task? Ensuring that when users land on your homepage they can clearly find the road signs, but not everything that your website contains. Your homepage should simply guide your user to navigate your site, know what to do and how to do it. 

A cluttered, busy homepage with too many links will distract your users’ attention, confuse them and maybe even lose them forever! First-click testing will take an informative look at how your homepage interface is performing. Mapping where your user is clicking once they arrive on your homepage and conversely, where they are not engaging.

This can all be highly informative in designing, re-designing or even removing clicks from the users journey through your homepage, and beyond. Using Chalkmark to test your users first clicks is a great way to get started now.

Wrap up

With a website that is intuitive to navigate and content that is relevant you will find users that are engaged and SEO that ranks!

Get started quickly and simply with our range of tools to sort out your navigation.

And, if you need some more inspiration to help improve your website navigation, grab yourself a copy of our Actionable IA guide that explores actionable ways to fix, refine and build better IAs.