Improve Site Navigation for a Superior User Experience

If you regularly publish relevant content, but visitors leave your site once they finish reading an article, you might want to consider your user experience.

Your readers likely want to learn more about the topic at hand, but if your site is missing a structured navigation menu, they might find it hard to locate the content they’re looking for. This might confuse them, prompting visitors to find an alternative site to use in the future. Ultimately, this can result in a higher bounce rate (the percentage of visitors who leave a site after viewing only one page) and could negatively impact your search rankings — and your business’s bottom line.

It’s a vicious cycle, and the best way to break it is by improving your site navigation to create a better user experience (UX). Positive experiences convince site visitors to stay longer and eventually return to read more of your content.

Let’s review how having intuitive site navigation can help to improve your user experience and decrease your bounce rate.

Site navigation matters

Site navigation helps to structure your website and serves as a high-level index for your content. Through your navigation menus, visitors can quickly locate the content they’re looking for. This encourages them to explore your site for longer periods of time, all the while building familiarity and trust with your brand.

A great navigation menu can also help first-time site visitors understand what your website is about, all within seconds of landing on your page. Adding post categories and drop-down subcategories to your navigation menu also helps your audience understand how your content is grouped.

On top of making your website more accessible to readers, transparent site navigation can also give you an advantage over competitors in terms of search engine optimization (SEO). Navigation considerations are among Google’s most important ranking factors.

Improving your site navigation for a better UX

Below are a few bases you’ll want to cover to provide visitors and search engines alike with a way to swiftly navigate your site and content.

1. Only display the most relevant categories

Even if your site features hundreds of well-written posts that are meticulously filed under dozens of different categories, don’t display every single one within your menu. Those extra categories will clutter your menus, overpopulating your site navigation. This might diminish your user experience by overwhelming readers with too many options, defeating the purpose of navigation menus altogether.

Jetpack's navigation menu includes the categories: Product Tour, Pricing, Support, and Blog

Instead, display only the categories that are the most important to your readers and use descriptive keywords that are in line with your SEO strategy. For example, a website for avid hikers might display the following categories: “Hiking News,” “Trail Maps,” and “Connect with Other Hikers.”

2. Limit your menu items

Having too many menu items within your navigation menu doesn’t help your user experience either. According to cognitive psychologist George A. Miller, most people can only retain about seven items within their short-term memories at any given time. So, try to limit your navigation menu to a maximum of seven items.

3. Test your menus for accessibility across devices

Make sure your menu is clear, intuitive, and visible across any device that a visitor might be using to view your content. Due to the various design elements that make up a website, side navigation menu icons can disappear into the background, or become unclickable when viewed on a mobile device. This increases the likelihood that visitors leave your website without getting what they came for.

To ensure that your website doesn’t fall victim to this design flaw, test it out using a tool such as Google’s Material Design Resizer so that you can get ahead of the problem before it impacts your bounce rate. You can also make use of Jetpack’s mobile friendly theme that optimizes sites for use across various screen sizes — or simply use a newer theme, as virtually all modern themes are responsive.

4. Create primary and secondary menus

In addition to displaying too many menu items, another common mistake is adding too many menus to your website. It’s advisable to create up to two menus — having more than two might confuse site visitors. Nowadays, many site owners use primary navigation menus for the more popular areas of their websites (such as “Blog” pages or product categories), and secondary menus for important but less-frequently referenced information (such as “About” pages or contact information).

5. Incorporate design elements

Many site owners will link their logo back to their homepage, place menus in locations where readers expect to see them (such as a header or sidebar), organize menu items according to their site structures and content hierarchies, and add search boxes near their navigation menus.

Jetpack gives you the advantage of being able to round out your navigation system with Site Breadcrumbs to streamline the structure of your navigation system, and a Social Menu to display links to social media profiles to further refine your user experience and increase engagement across various channels.

Social Menu allows site owners to create a new menu location, used to display links to Social Media Profiles

Improve your site navigation to give visitors what they want

It’s important to align your site navigation with what your visitors are looking for. It also plays a role in how you want readers to interact with your website.

If this is your first time creating a navigation menu, or you’re reworking existing menus, implement these techniques to refine the process, supporting visitors as they engage with your content.


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