Sometimes, (or every time in some cases), people ignore the importance of the main navigation menu while designing or even re-designing the website.
Why is the menu bar/main navigation is so important?
- It’s the first or second thing users see on your website. Yes, second after the logo, or sometimes, the first thing
- It tells the user where to go. It works like a guide
- It communicates “the what’s in it for me” factor
In my post on the 3 seconds rule, I have mentioned importance of the fist fold of a landing page. The main menu cannot be ignored and must be optimized for better navigation and end conversion.
I am not going to give any technical knowledge or best practices about the navigation menu here. I’ll be more customer centric here and put down points to my best knowledge & experience as to how you can ensure that your website’s main menu is not confusing the user and is navigating him to start a purchase process or do any desirable action.
Tips for an ideal navigation menu
Too much animation shouldn’t spoil the experience. Animations increase page weight and the load time. Keep it noticeable yet subtle. A non-traditional menu style will take more of the user’s time to understand and might even bore him.
A simple Menu bar from Mailchimp which is subtle yet stands out
Web experts believe that all your audience will want to know about your company before doing any transaction with you. It builds a credibility that they are going to buy from a trusted vendor. A main navigation is an ideal place to put a link which says “About us” or something similar. If not in main menu, it should at least be there somewhere in the header.
Relevance between the menu text and the related page is very important.
Too many items in the main menu confuse the user. Just keep a few menu items that are important part of your starting fennel of sales.
Sometimes, an e-commerce site sells hundreds of things online. In that case it’s very important to categorize products well in a manner that users will understand as to where should they click to find their desirable products.
The horizontal menu on flipkart.com makes any product easy to find. Also, it’s neat & clean without any clutter.
“What we do”, “Products” etc. are safe to have links, but knowing what your users will be interested in to is much smarter. Saves more of users’ time.
Apple website’s menu has product names directly in the menu, without any drop down. Makes it looks neater, and at the same time, very clearly explains “What’s in it for me” factor.
Interactivity is also important. Mouse over and on click gestures give a feeling of pressing a real button.
Having a search bar in main menu is a must have if you want direct insights from your customers. How?
- Your users are directly searching for their interests on your website.
- You’ll directly know what they are looking for on your website. You can find new keywords to target on to advertise, also helps in SEO.
- You know what they are not looking for. With this, you can remove or bid low on those keywords in your advertising strategy.
The big search bar on amazon.com indicates the importance of site search to them.
You can keep testing to know your audience better. Testing is the key. As mentioned earlier, as the navigation bar is one of the first things users see on any page, it’s worth spending energies on it to make your website more engaging and convert more users in to customers.
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