“When I’m really upset, concentrating on a table of contents helps me calm down. It’s like a menu, but the food is words.”
-Chidi Anagonye, The Good Place
Your website’s navigation menu plays a critical, yet often overlooked, role in your visitor’s user experience (UX). According to Google, 29% of smartphone users will immediately switch to another website if it doesn’t satisfy their needs, usually by either being too difficult to navigate or too slow to load. Not only does the main menu help traffic convert by directing users to fill out contact forms or click-to-call links, but a properly optimized navigation menu can even help increase a website’s search engine rankings.
Website Menu Best Practices
Google rewards websites who offer information to searchers quickly, with the fewest clicks possible. It doesn’t matter how appealing the webpage is, or how well written the content is – if your visitors can’t find it, they’ll leave your site frustrated.
While you may be tempted to get creative, it is highly recommended that your website’s menu follows conventional menu structuring. This means that the main navigation menu should either rest horizontally at the top of the website or vertically down the left side.
The menu on each page of the website should always look identical and have the same structure; this will help your site feel more familiar and easier to navigate around, increasing the trust visitors associate with your brand.
English is read from left-to-right, so keep in mind the flow of learning that a new visitor will have when looking at your menu. The ideal Main Menu template is:
Home – About Us – Services – Testimonials – News & Updates – Contact Us
There is no magic number of links to have on the main menu. For example, if you are a small business that specializes in one type of clothing, there is no reason to over-stuff the Main Menu with links unrelated to your core product, simply to have them on the menu. Make sure you are actively directing your visitors to where you want them to go; whether it’s to learn more about your company, find out what services you offer, or read testimonials from your past customers.
Setting up clear linking structures will help Google better understand the layout of your website, and how different topics and categories relate to each other. Make sure that you’re not going overboard though, as Google discourages linking to every page from your homepage.
How to Optimize a Main Menu
1) Conceptualize your business and its services as a whole
2) Brainstorm broad categories that your business falls into
3) Create clear paths to content divided into subcategories
While you want the menu to be as clear as possible, you do want to show off some of the brand’s personality. For example, instead of using a generic label like “Services,” you could use the label “Marketing Solutions” instead. Make the categories as personable as you’d like, as long as it is clear where it is taking them.
Optimizing your website’s navigation menu isn’t difficult (if it’s a WordPress), but it does take some brainstorming. There are no right or wrong answers to your website’s navigation menu. But answering a few questions about your business goals can help illuminate how best to optimize your menu:
Why are people on your website?
What do visitors do when they’re on your website?
What do you want them to do?
With small businesses trying to compete in competitive markets, a professional, SEO-optimized website and main menu that leaves visitors with knowledgeable answers, a good experience, and a positive impression of your business can make all the difference.