7 Rules for Designing a Perfect Navigational Menu 

designing perfect navigational menu

If your website is getting traffic but just not converting visitors to sales then your navigation menu isn’t doing its job. In this blog, I am going to show you seven easy rules of designing and building the perfect navigational menu in WordPress. A menu that will guide your customers through your website, show them the most important content and convert them to sales!

Yes, a menu can do all that!

Ever visited a website and you’ve just felt completely lost? Either you can’t find the answer to your search query straight away or the menu doesn’t make any sense to you. Or perhaps you can’t even find the navigation menu at all! Any of them! Then, once you do there’s just too many options to choose from. From pages, products, subheadings, blogs posts…to all the names of their cats! Really, it’s hard to see the wood from the trees. So, you just don’t bother, you give up and switch off.

We’ve all experienced the total confusion caused by bad website navigation but this is a mistake that most website owners will make at some point. This is crazy because this is actually an easy fix. Designing a perfect navigational menu isn’t hard if you follow the set rules that your customers expect you to follow. Great menu design is not about being creative, different or breaking the mold. It’s about showing your customers where they can get their hands on all the great info and products on your website.

7 Rules for Designing and Building the Perfect Navigational Menu

So, what are these rules? I thought you’d ask. Here are my seven, stupidly easy, rules for designing and building the perfect navigation. So good, your customers are guided through your website to that great big ‘BUY NOW’ button in the sky.

Rule one: Put the menu at the top

The top of your pages is where your website visitors expect to find your menu. Don’t be tempted to follow the latest trend of disappearing menus, like the ones where it’s hidden until you scroll down. Your visitors will make the decision to stay on your website in the first few seconds of landing there. They may not scroll and if they don’t see where to go next, they won’t hunt around for it. All of those menus that are disguised as the hamburger mobile menu, as an attempt to make the website cleaner or artier, are not going to help your visitors stick around. As a website designer, I know that if I click on these, the real menu will glide in, pop up or overtake the entire screen. However, your average website visitor doesn’t want to have to search for it. It needs to be obvious and placed permanently at the top of the web page. Anything else is an obstacle and it’s important that your menu makes it easy for your potential visitors to navigate around your site

Rule Two: Stick to 8-10 menu items

The menu is not your chance to pack everything you think is of top importance into the header. This is where so many website owners come a cropper! They mistake the menu as a chance to sell their brand-new product or advertise their latest podcast! However, that’s not the job of your menu. Your menu’s job is to guide your visitors to what they need to see, to signpost them to the most important content. Shoehorning new products into the main menu clutters it up with too much information. You need to give them a clear reason to click through.

When I design menus for my website, I group together the same types of pages. For example:

  • About page: Testimonials, supporting charities, partners.
  • Work with me (service-based): Classes, courses and memberships.
  • Blog: Blog as the main item plus categories sitting below
  • Shop: Product categories

I keep the main menu eight to ten items but use some of the whizzy mega-menu plugins to layout the sub categories in an appealing obvious and clickable way. This menu format is used by all of the big and successful online stores and assists website visitors with finding what they are looking for. Therefore, tempting them to explore further and buy more things.

Rule three: Use short menu items

Your customers don’t want to have to wade through an enormous list to get to the good stuff so help them by keeping it short and sweet. So, keep those top-line items to the point and easy to read. One to two-word titles works best. On my current website, it’s very obvious to see what I offer and how people can work with me. Visitors have a clear choice on the level of help they need so they can explore further down that path. You can leave the longer titled menu items to the dropdowns, once the visitors have chosen the first stage of their website journey.

Rule four: Don’t makeup words

The next rule of great menu design is to avoid making up words! Call a blog: a blog, call your contact page: contact and call your testimonials page: testimonials or reviews. Point people to your services with a services title. Your main menu is not the place to get creative. People aren’t going to choose to click through to lovely sentiments out of curiosity. Or navigate through to your characterfully named membership without a little guidance. If it’s on the menu, it needs to make immediate sense so people know what to expect when clicking through. Always assume they’ve never heard of you or your business before.

Rule five: Make your drop-downs simple too

As drop-down menus are moving parts, they can prove tricky to click on so keep them simple. When your customers are struggling to get the drop-down to behave, there’s a chance they’ll just give up. One way of making your customers’ journey easier is to limit your drop-down to one level down or one beautiful mega menu. If you have lots of items on your menu, then that’s when you need to look at creating a mega menu.

Rule six: Leave it alone!

Resist the temptation to fiddle and add new pages, post-opt-ins or products to it. It’s tempting to try and push your latest product or venture to the front. However, you can’t disregard why they landed on the site or what they were searching for in google, to begin with. Adding to your menu willy-nilly will just add more noise, more options to choose from and create more confusion. When you need to add more options to your menu this is the time to sit back and think about your customer’s journey. Do you need to make room for it by trimming back other options? Or maybe reconsider which items will be the most helpful in guiding your customer through to that all-important information?

“Wait a minute, I’ve got too many very important items I have to include on my menu!” No problem because…

Rule seven: You can have two menus!

Just like all the other great menu rules I’ve listed here, the rule of two is an accepted and looked for menu format. Used by the big hitters online and with its own little set of rules to follow, this second menu is often used for e-commerce function pages. For example; the cart, my account page, the login or elixir support. It can also be a useful place to add links to your social platforms or your phone number so people can see how to contact you. It could also work for a big button to sign up for your latest freebie. This takes the pressure off your main menu where people expect to find links to your information and adds a very easily recognisable, visible and trusted place where they can interact with you. Add in the use of different colours or font sizes and this second little menu will stand on its own without confusing your customers.

That’s where the wonders of easy to read layout and design comes in because designing a perfect navigational menu for your website is: half following these easy rules and half not screwing it up by making it hard to read! Read more on this topic here or check out my Youtube videos here. 

Thanks for reading and leave any comments or questions below!

Kat x

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