Create an Effective Web Site Navigation Structure -
2002 Herman Drost
A ship captain traversing the
open seas without a good
navigation system will surely get lost. Maybe he’ll strike
sharp rocks and his ship will sink. A visitor who arrives at
your site and can’t navigate it for the information they
seek, will surely get lost also and leave in frustration.
Your ship (your web site) will also sink if this continues
Good site design means a good navigation structure for your
web site. This means the visitor can find the information
Put yourself in the shoes of your Grandmother. Would she
quickly and effortlessly be able to find the information she
wants, or know what to click on to make the purchase?
Don’t think that just because it is easy for you, it will
be easy for others.
Visitors should not need to click more than three times
during their navigation, to find the information they are
1. Navigation Styles
These can range from navigation buttons, navigation bars,
plain text links, fancy animated graphics or drop-down
select menus. You can also use illustrations, photographs or
graphic images to show your visitor around. For example, an
image map contains one graphic with different “hot
spots”(invisible buttons) that link to other pages.
2. Primary and Secondary Navigation
Primary navigation consists of the navigation elements that
accessible from most locations within the site.
Secondary navigation elements allow the user to navigate
a specific location. For example, many sites have a page
offers information about the company. The primary navigation
element may be an About Us link.
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the user arrives on the About Us page, there will be other
links (secondary links), which navigate within the About
These could be links to Press Releases, Corporate
Investor Information and so on. These links are secondary
navigation elements because they are relevant to the About
page but not the other pages of the site. Therefore, these
will not be found in other areas of the site.
3. Guided Navigation
This is a popular technique, in which you guide the
through your site. Links are provided for the next step
establishing links that keep the users on track continues
the process. These links should supply the necessary
information, as well as an alternate course clearly marked
allow the visitor to exit. For example, an online purchase
should lead the user through shipping information, then on
to payment information, then to receipt information.
4. Creating a Navigation Action Plan
Determine goals and needs of your audience Decide what the
purpose of your site is and who your target audience will
For more in-depth information on this subject visit:
“How to Target Your Customers and Put Them in a Buying
Learn from navigation that works Visit several successful
that show good navigation e.g., Fedex.com. These sites
Generally, good navigation includes several
Offers easy to learn elements
Appears in context
Provides clear visual messages
Offers clear and understandable labels
Remains appropriate to the site’s purpose
Supports visitors goals and behaviors
Providing feedback has the biggest impact on users.
should tell people, where they are and if possible, where
have been. Visitors should also be able to easily
linked or clickable material.
They need to know whether they successfully made a
conducted a search, or completed some other task.
Navigation that allows visitors to find information easily
quickly will contribute to your web site’s success. Ask
grandmother (or someone who is not familiar with the Web)
navigate your site. If they can find the information they
within 3 clicks, your navigation structure must be a
Part 2 of this article will show
“How to Design Your
Structure and Common Navigation Mistakes to Avoid”.
Herman Drost is a Certified Internet Webmaster (CIW)
owner and author of iSiteBuild.com
Web Site Design and Low Cost Hosting
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