What is navigation?
Navigation is all about the links you provide to enable people to move between the different parts and pages of your website. Your navigation needs to address four key challenges:
- Visitors won’t know what’s on your website unless you tell them. Entire sections of your site could be overlooked You tell people don’t know they’re there.
- People don’t have the patience or commitment to try to out how to use your website. They just want to be able to understand it immediately, and want to intuitively know how to get around it. If they can’t work out where to find something they want, they’ll probably leave your website altogether.
- People don’t know how your website is structured unless you tell them. They want to feel that they understand where they are in the whole site, not to feel like they’re bouncing between pages aimlessly.
- Visitors will want to take a different path through your website, depending on their interests. You can’t assume or expect that everyone will want to view your web pages in the same order.
It is possible, and desirable, to put links anywhere in your content. If a blog post mentions your latest product, then you should link to it so that people can find out more information easily. Providing links in context at the time people might want them makes it much easier for people to explore your website
When people think of navigation, though, they usually think of those links that are separated from the content that provide access to everything the site offers. A group of links at the top or the side of the page is often called a “navigation bar”, or a “navbar” for short. Because it’s separated from the page content, it’s easy to spot, and it often uses design elements that draw attention to it.
It’s risky to copy another site’s navigation, because what works for them won’t necessarily work for you. That said, there are certain conventions that you need to take into account. Visitors arrive with some opinions of how a website should work, based on all the other websites they’ve used. If you can meet their expectations they’ll find it easier to use your site, and you’ll find it easier to keep their interest.
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