I’ll start by asking you a question – what makes something intuitive? Is it a quick reaction? A definite answer? Instantly knowing what to do? However you define intuitive, that’s how your website navigation should operate.
What is navigation?
First, let’s define the term “navigation.” On your practice website, navigation is the system that enables your visitors to move around your website. It’s the mechanism by which they locate and navigate to different pages. The most common place to find navigation is at the top of your website, in the “navigation bar.” But navigation can also be located anywhere on your website. Any time your site directs visitors to another page, that’s considered navigation.
Why does your practice website need intuitive navigation?
Intuitive navigation is key to the success of your practice website. It allows visitors to successfully move off your homepage and into other parts of your website, where they can learn more about your practice and what you have to offer. And when your navigation is intuitive, visitors are able to find that information without difficulty or frustration, creating a seamless experience that reflects well on your practice – and prevents them from visiting your competitors!
What makes up intuitive navigation?
There are 3 main components to intuitive navigation:
The easier your website is to use, the more people will use it! And one of the keys to ease of use is simplicity. Your website should not have so many pages that it’s impossible to wade through all of them, but also not so few that it’s hard to drill down to specific information.
A simple website facilitates simple website navigation. Intuitive navigation takes advantage of headings and subheadings to break down your website pages into logical hierarchies. Structure your navigation from general to more specific, with the most general headings appearing in your navigation bar. From there, your visitors can select a general category and see a list of subheadings to more specific pages. So if a visitor wants to see your Team page, they would hover over the About label in your navigation bar. This hierarchical structure is very common on websites and easy for visitors to use. It also prevents your navigation bar from getting overly cluttered and confusing to look at, and it enables visitors to intuitively and easily locate specific information.
Another aspect of simple navigation is simplicity of wording. When you create a call-to-action or an internal link, both forms of navigation, they should clearly state where that link is leading, without being overly creative or misleading. When visitors are invited to click on your links, they should have an idea of what page they will land on and what information they will receive when they get there. It can be tempting to use creative or flowery language to spark interest or trick people into clicking. But you do yourself and your readers a favor when you keep your words and links simple and clear.
Another crucial factor of intuitive navigation is consistency. No matter what page your visitors are visiting on your site, your navigation should remain consistent. This is essential to their overall experience of the website. If they end up on a page of your site where the navigation has changed, moved, or disappeared altogether, they might not stick around to try and figure out how it works. By remaining consistent across your site, you keep things easy and intuitive for your visitors.
Your navigation should not only be consistent within your website, but also consistent with other sites across the web. Remember, your visitors have already spent a lot of time on other websites, where they have become familiar with the structure of most websites’ navigation. These common navigation conventions are important to adhere to when creating navigation for your website, because your visitors will be expecting the navigation on your site to be the same. Some examples of popular navigation conventions:
- Clicking your logo leads back to your website’s homepage
- Links are a different color than regular text on your website
- Use common terms in your headings to make them clear (e.g., Contact, About Us, Services, etc.)
Keep in mind that the goal of your navigation is to allow visitors to find the information they’re looking for as easily and quickly as possible. This makes sticking to common conventions a very user-friendly move. It’s more important to make sure your visitors can find what they’re looking for than it is to have creative navigation.
Great navigation ensures that visitors can find what they’re looking for in the fewest number of steps possible. For example, an intuitive navigation system uses relevant headings so that visitors don’t have to look through multiple menus to find the page they want. When they’re searching for your team page, they should find it under “About Us,” not under “Resources.” Internet users have very short attention spans, so intuitive navigation is all about getting them to where they want to be quickly, before they lose interest and leave for another site.
Types of navigation
There are a number of navigational components that make up a successful website. If your website has intuitive navigation correctly built into it, people will be able to visit your site and navigate around it without confusion. Here are a few ways to build intuitive navigation into your practice website:
- Navigation Bar – The navigation bar at the top of your website is the most important part of your site’s navigation system. Almost every website out there has a navigation bar at the top of their website, and many of them have similar elements, such as About Us and Services headings. When potential clients visit your website, they’ll look first to your navigation bar to locate pages with key information about your practice. Make sure that your navigation bar has a clear structure, that your structure and labels consistent with other websites, and that your subheadings fall under logical headings.
- A Call-to-Action – A CTA is a word or short phrase designed to let your clients know when and where to take action. Some examples of CTAs are “Subscribe,” “Check out our deals,” and “Like us on Facebook.” Every page on your website should feature at least one CTA, to drive your visitors from casually browsing to actively engaging with and visiting your practice.
- Internal Links – Create internal links by hyperlinking relevant phrases in your content to other pages on your website, like this link to a blog about internal links. This clever tactic allows you to send visitors from one page on your site to another relevant page. These hyperlinks also help you drive visitors from general areas of your site to specific landing pages, such as appointment forms, where they can interact directly with your practice.
Internal links are a very important component of intuitive navigation because they keep visitors on your website and looking through other pages of your site. The longer eyes stay on your website, the better!
- Sidebars – These are versatile and usually placed along the side of the website. This strategic placement is designed to display content prominently and intuitively. Sidebars can contain widgets to engage visitors. A website with well-placed sidebars greatly helps readers find what they are looking for quickly.
- Search Tool – When they absolutely can’t locate that crucial information through traditional navigation, give visitors an extra way to find it with a search tool. By searching for relevant keywords, visitors can quickly jump to the relevant page, ensuring that no matter what, they find what they were looking for.
So, what have we learned about what makes up intuitive navigation?
- It’s simple to use
- It’s consistent
- It enables efficiency
- It leads logically to the information visitors are searching for
Armed with this improved understanding about the importance of intuitive navigation, you’re ready to implement a well-planned navigation strategy and create magic.