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This article was published on April 20, 2016

How not to annoy visitors with your site’s navigation menu

How not to annoy visitors with your site’s navigation menu
Drew Martens
Story by

Drew Martens

Advertising professional by day, creative minded media enthusiast by night! Drew likes to write about all things technology, innovation, mar Advertising professional by day, creative minded media enthusiast by night! Drew likes to write about all things technology, innovation, marketing strategies and culture.

Over the past few months, I have had the opportunity to work on a few different website projects that all engage with different and unique industries.

As different and unique as each of these projects were, the one thing that remained constant was the need for a simpler, more condensed navigation menu. Some of these projects had massive navigational menus with multiple sub-menus and even a sub-sub menu (don’t ever go sub-sub, that’s just too far).

Regardless of the size of the current menu, the challenge was the same. How in the world do we take this massive menu and condense it without losing value?

Start with your message

The first thing you need to consider is whether or not you need every single page on your site that you currently have. If you think you can’t afford to lose or consolidate a page or two, therein lies the real problem!

With a number of advertisements and websites out there, getting your consumer to your site is merely the beginning. If you get them to your site and overload them with a plethora of menu choices, you’re going to see a high bounce rate!

Figure out which pages and content pieces are the most critical for keeping your brand presence and message constant across your whole site. Consolidate where possible (which should be everywhere) and pair down as many pages as you can to get down to the core elements of your site. If this turns out to be a difficult task then maybe it is time for a more simplified brand message as well, but that’s a topic for another day.

When it comes to to your main navigational menu a good goal to shoot for is five main navigation tabs with a single sub-menu column under each of those tabs.

Different menu types

The next item on your list of consideration is more of a style and design choice, but nonetheless, it should be part of your decision-making process.

The first on the list is your standard top navigation menu with a few core choices and a breakdown of related sub-menus.

Although this one isn’t particularly fancy by functionality, it can be enhanced by design! After all, looking pretty is great, but you want it you work properly right?

Next on the list is the more unique but still common parallax menu style. This allows for more visual space and gives a creative photography style appearance to your site.

The functionality mirrors that of a standard menu but can allow for jumping between pieces of content or sub-pages all within the same main page. It gives the user the ability to jump right to the content they want or scroll through and experience all that the site has to offer.

A little more complex than the first two is the in-page content block menu.

This provides for an additional level of organization without cluttering up your main navigation menu. As an extra plus, this style is fantastic for organizing your client work by project, industry, time and whatever else you deem necessary.

Of course, there are many more options for menu styles than the ones mentioned above, but we will only discuss these today for the sake of popularity and time. Check out some of the emfluence blogs on website design for more information if you are interested.

Let it begin!

Now here you are sitting at your desk thinking, what have I done?!

This is going to be the biggest internal project I have ever attempted! And you might very well be right, so get some help on this project before you try and do it all on your own or your sanity might go with it.

Hopefully, you’re at a company that employs some very talented developers to help you with your project or if not, have an agency that you work with on your marketing projects (I hear emfluence is a good one…).

Having the vision and map of how your want your new menu to be structured is most of the battle, getting it done is just the icing on the cake.

Next steps

Of course, with any marketing project comes the “What now?” phase of the plan.

Now that you have a trimmed down site menu that makes it easier for people to navigate your site (and spend money with you) you can optimize other parts of your site.

Make sure that you have Google Analytics set up (or another tracking program) and are actively checking on your site stats to see which pages are performing better than others. Set up event tracking and goal conversions for an additional way to measure if your marketing efforts are having the effect you want and continue to improve.

Give yourself a pat on the back for getting through a menu redesign and set up those goals to make sure your hard work is appreciated!

As marketers, we’re in an ever-changing business which means we have to continually optimize and get better.

Fortunately, you have marketing professionals and resources to help you through it all. View the blogs posts people for additional related topics and information on website design and strategy.