So, you’re thinking about creating your website. You’re looking at templates and you’re thinking about the images you’re gonna include.
But did you know that the navigation bar - yes, the navigation bar - plays a crucial role in the overall performance of your website?
Most people overlook the navigation bar not realising how important it is to the overall performance of their website....but not you.
By the end of this post, you’ll be ready to create a navigation bar that helps to grow your business.
But before we dive in, let’s answer a couple of questions -
What’s A Navigation Bar?
It’s the navigation tool located either above your website header or on the side of your website page.
The navigation bar helps your audience navigate through your website and find what they're looking for with ease - or at least that’s the goal.
What Does Optimise Mean?
Optimise means to make something the best or the most effective it can be.
In this case, we’re looking at creating a website navigation bar that performs in the best possible way for your business.
OK, so now that we’re clear on that, let’s explore this a little more.
Are you ready? Here are 5 Ways To Optimise Your Website Navigation Bar:
1. Keep it Simple - Less Is More
I realise this is super basic but so many people get tripped up over this.
I know as passionate creative people we want to share everything we do with our audience but the old adage rings true here: Less is more.
Don’t clutter your navigation bar with more pages than you need or get fancy using different fonts and colours.
Just keep it simple.
Maintain plenty of space in the bar by limiting the number of pages to 3-5.
If that sounds challenging then the ideas in point 3 may provide a solution.
TIP! Remember your website is an online representation of you and your business. A navigation bar that’s clear, simple and well-balanced sets the tone for your entire website.
2. Use Language Everyone Will Understand
Websites have been around for a long time. As a result, there are certain pages we expect to find in the navigation bar.
These may include but are not limited to:
Blog (or Videos, Podcast)
Now, you don’t need to have all of these but choose the ones that are most relevant for your business.
Be sure to list the most important ones first, i.e. from left to right or from top to bottom.
Let me jump off for a sec because I can hear you asking, “But, Nat, how do I know what pages are important?”
And to that I say, it depends on your business, on your industry and on the needs and expectations of your customers.
When you have a clear understanding of who your ideal customers are you’ll be in a strong position to determine what pages they will be looking for when they visit your website.
It’s worth mentioning that you don’t need a Home button or a Home icon.
Usually, your logo or business name will act as a link back to your homepage so just do that!
OK, let’s carry on!
3. Categorise your navigation bar to create drop downs lists or a vertical menu bar
DROP-DOWN NAVIGATION BARS
If you have several important pages that your audience need to know about then categorise them and create a drop-down menu.
This can be created easily with most website template providers so experiment and choose something that works for you.
Just make sure it doesn’t affect the look and performance of your website.
VERTICAL NAVIGATION BARS
The other alternative would be to create a vertical navigation bar for the extra pages you'd like your audience to be aware of.
If you opt for a vertical system then I'd suggest having a standard one-line horizontal navigation bar featuring your main pages (as described earlier) and then add a vertical one to house the extra pages.
TIP! Use a mobile responsive website template. This means the format of your navigation bar will change to fit different devices. This will improve your customer's experience.
If you're working with a web designer to create your website then they should be aware of this but I’d always suggest you mention it to them so your request is noted.
Having a responsive website is a must in today’s online world.
4. Speak directly to your audience
Stand in your dream customers shoes and think about what they’re experiencing in their lives as it relates to your business.
What are they concerned about, searching for, hoping to fix or achieve?
When you put yourself in your customer’s shoes you’ll find it easier to design a navigation bar with them in mind.
Here are a few prompts to help you get started:
Do you have an interesting story as it relates to your business? Should you have a My Story tab nestled under your About Page?
Do you have any qualifications worth sharing?
Is your Why attached to a bigger mission, such as global warming, activism, animal rights - If so, should you have a Mission Page?
Is there an interesting backstory to the products you sell? For example, are they organic, handmade, support women and children in the developing world? If so, do you need a page to highlight this?
Do you offer more than one type of product or service? Would it be worth listing them (or some of them) in your navigation bar?
Do you serve multiple groups of customers? If so, will it be helpful to list the groups so your customers can easily find out how you can serve them?
The purpose of this exercise is to help you design the best possible navigation bar for your business and make your audience feel seen and heard as soon as they reach your website.
And finally -
5. Boost conversions with a CTA button and/or On-site Search feature
A call-to-action (CTA) button in the navigation bar is a great way to encourage your visitors to connect with you.
Buttons like “Book Now”, “Get In Touch” or “Learn More” make it easy for your visitors to reach out to you and start a conversation.
An on-site search tool is another great way to optimise your navigation bar because it allows your visitors to easily find what they’re looking for.
And according to research, when customers can find what they’re looking for they’re more likely to buy.
Alright, my love, there you have it - 5 Ways To Optimise Your Website Navigation Bar.
Now, remember, to show yourself grace + patience if you’re creating your website on your own for the first time. Just focus on keeping the design of your navigation bar clean and simple.
You don’t have to implement everything I’m suggesting but a couple of tweaks here and there in the right direction will make a positive difference.
As always, listen to your heart and cherry-pick the ones that feel right for you.
And one last thing -
Never be afraid to try new things on your website - after all, nothing’s permanent.
Play + experiment and try your best to enjoy the process!
Love Nat x