Over the years, some websites have become more difficult to navigate. That may be due to the fact that so many of them are no longer designed by professionals.
Most websites are DIY projects by businesses who hoped to save money and there’s nothing wrong with that. Building your own website is a valid money-saving business strategy.
However, it also bypasses the expertise of a professional designer: expertise that includes more than just an eye that can make the website look aesthetically pleasing.
Professional design includes navigational infrastructure
What many people don’t recognize is that professional designers don’t just program some source code and create a cool-looking layout. Part of their job is to engineer the usability and user experience of the website strategically, which includes organizing information across multiple pages with a simple navigation menu that will take visitors wherever they want to go.
Because the true art of website development is so often overlooked, customers have paid a price in frustration. It’s understandable if you don’t have the money to hire a professional website designer, but if you’re convinced you don’t want to save up for one, here are some tips to help you create a user-friendly navigational experience – the way a professional designer would.
- Choose simplicity over complexity
Everyone knows that life can be a complex experience, but that doesn’t mean your website should be. When it comes to website design, simple is nearly always better.
The Occam’s Razor of website design is that the simplest structure is probably the best. Take copywriter John Carlton’s website as a fine example of pleasing simplicity.
Not only is the layout clean, with plenty of white space, but everything from his logo and main menu to his typography and sidebar are unobtrusive and perfectly integrated into the overall design. Because nothing stands out, the entire experience is smooth. Carlton’s menu is simple and his wonderful content is accessible without any barriers.
Though you might have more content to offer than Carlton, think about his website layout as an example of how to incorporate simplicity into your design.
- Paste a promo code on your product pages
Make it easy for your customers to get a good deal with an obvious promo code so they don’t have to go hunting for a code on Google. Promo codes can be used for many purposes, such as:
- Tracking marketing efforts to see which ads are successful
- Providing a quick way to clear overstock or seasonal merchandise
- Extending a generous discount to loyal or new customers
The interesting thing about human psychology is that you don’t need to wait to run a marketing campaign in order to extend a promo code discount to customers. People love discounts no matter where they come from, and sometimes pasting a coupon code right on your product pages can be the determining factor in a customer’s purchase decision.
If you’ve got a website with cool merchandise, you’ll make it even more appealing with a visible coupon code because that tells people they can secure an immediate discount if they buy your product immediately.
- Strategically plan and design your navigation menu
Sometimes graphic design plays a part in the effectiveness of your navigation menu, but even when all you have is a plain-text menu, the most important facet is how the information is organized and which words you select to label the menu items.
Your navigation menu plays a huge role in your website’s success. If your visitors don’t know intuitively where to click or hover, they’re not going to find what they’re looking for.
You should avoid navigation labels that contain jargon, branded terms, or industry-specific technical terms that your visitors won’t necessarily be familiar with. As much as you might wish to use special lingo, every time you do, you risk losing visitors.
Think like a visitor
When you strategically plan the design of your navigation menu by keeping your visitors’ experience in mind, it prompts you to think like one. Whatever category you want people to explore, ask yourself what the best word would be to describe that category.
It should be a word that will make them say: “That’s it! That’s what I want!” NNGroup.com has a brilliant article that discusses navigation menu labels in depth, including examples of websites that provide drop-down subcategories of main categories when labels may not be self-explanatory.
Check out the article for more ideas on how to structure your navigation menu when you want to avoid using complex, uncommon terminology.
- Test your own process over and over
The most important step in creating a smooth experience for your visitors is to test your website from top to bottom, and from every perceivable angle. Whatever your visitors might do on your website, you should perform a full test on.
Whenever you come across an aspect of your website’s usability that’s confusing, difficult, or not self-explanatory, treat it as an opportunity to restructure the experience.
If you can’t afford to hire a professional designer, that’s okay. When you follow the tips outlined above, you’ll be able to create a seamless user experience for your visitors without the added cost.