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Design An Effective Web Site Navigation System

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How To Design An Effective Navigation System?

First things first, your navigation system has to be readily available whenever visitors need it.

Don't make your visitors hunt for navigation or wonder where to go next. If you've done the job right, it will be right there when they are ready for it. A simple click will lead visitors to where you want them to go.

The struggle in creating good navigation system is to figure out what type of navigation the visitor is going to need, when she is going to need it, and where the most effective placement will be.

Here are the key aspects you should consider.

Global Navigation

Global navigation is a set of links to all the main sections of your web site that is available at the same place of every page. Global navigation is a must-have because it gives visitors easy access to the key areas on your site.

If you don't have this type of navigation, visitors may get lost somewhere while surfing around. When a proper global navigation system is in place, visitors develop a sense of familiarity with your site. When they need to find something, they know right where to look for it.

Global navigation should be across the top of the page or down the left side, since these two places are where most visitors will look first. As an example, take a look at the top menu and left-side menu on this and every page in this web site.

In some cases, you may put the menu on the right side if that fits your overall page design better. Either way, a top menu is a must.

Spotlight Navigation

On many sites, there are a few navigation options that get the spotlight at an obvious place on the main page. The idea is to attract visitors to the key areas - where you want them to go -right up front.

However, many web sites focus on the wrong things. Frequently, they link to the company history or the mission statement.

Nobody cares about your mission statement, board of directors, business philosophy...except yourself. Don't waste your limited space on these things. In the rare case when a visitor really wants to know those information, she will find her way out at the bottom through the "About Us" link.

You should concentrate on what they need and where your products or services are. Which pages are really crucial to your business? What are the most popular offers you have? What information will benefit visitors the most? Put those things up front.

Contextual Navigation

Contextual navigation refers to links that give more information about something specific the visitor is trying to do.

On every page of your site, you'll have to anticipate the questions a visitor is going to have. Figure out what kind of additional information they might need. Then provide links to that information at the precise place that they will have the question.

This is the essence of the World Wide Web. All documents are cross linked. Whenever a visitor wants to know more about something, she can just follow the hyperlinked text.

Any time you refer to information on another page of your site or on a third party's site, link directly to that info.

Bottom Navigation

Whenever the visitor gets to the end of a page, they are left hanging. They have finished whatever it is they were working on, and now they need somewhere else to go.

This is a critical moment, because it is terribly easy for a visitor to leave your site if you don't give them somewhere to go. You have to point them in the right direction.

Never leave visitors without suggestions at the bottom of a page. You will see the example below;-)

In summary, always ask yourself: Where are the visitors going to need a link and how can I make that link really obvious to them?

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Article by Zac Hewlett at SingaporeWebHosting.com
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