Navigation is undoubtedly among the most important features of any website. It’s the lifeblood of providing a great user experience (UX). And it should be a primary consideration in whatever design and functionality decisions we make. The goal is to provide the easiest and most intuitive way for users to find what they’re looking for.
So whether you’re building a brand new website or are looking to upgrade an existing one, it’s imperative that your navigation is the best it can be. With that in mind, let’s have a look at five ways to bring your site’s navigation up to the next level.
We’ll show you how easy it can be to implement these upgrades using a selection of premium WordPress plugins. Each one is available with your yearly subscription to Envato Elements. You’ll find over 400 top-quality WordPress plugins and themes, along with over 440,000 design resources available for unlimited downloads.
1. Make it Mobile-Friendly
These days, it’s a given that a website’s navigation should be optimized for mobile devices. But there are still many older sites out there who haven’t taken the steps necessary to ensure that users can navigate easily, regardless of screen size. While things don’t have to look exactly the same across all screens, an effort should be made to maintain consistency in terms of fonts, colors and other visuals such as icons.
TapTap is a WordPress plugin that can bring mobile-friendly, multi-level navigation to any site. Just about every visual element can be customized, so you can tweak things to match your site’s look. You can also choose when the mobile menu appears (and when to hide the desktop version).
2. Design Around Your Content Structure
Navigation menus are often designed based on what looks pretty, but that doesn’t necessarily serve the best interests of users. It’s important to consider how your site’s content is structured when determining how your navigation both looks and works. For example, if your site has multiple levels of content, you’ll want to think about the best way to help users get where they need to go. In this case, some styles of navigation are going to be more user-friendly than others.
Those looking for some flexibility in their navigation setup will want to check out Superfly. The plugin offers a variety of vertical navigation styles. Menus can be hidden behind a “hamburger” icon or set to always visible. Multi-level navigation is especially nice, as subsequent levels slide out and are easy to use with either a mouse or a touchscreen. The Advanced Toolbar menu is also quite handy, as it includes the ability to add features like a search bar, social media icons, and shopping cart icon to your menus.
3. Provide Visual Cues
Sometimes, navigation menus can get a little too wordy. This is especially an issue on mobile devices, where screen real estate is extremely limited. An effective alternative is to add some accessible visual cues, such as icons, that provide users with some context for various links. This works particularly well for utility menus–ones that display links for search, shopping carts, user registration/login, etc.
These types of visual representations are what make Touchy an incredibly useful solution. Use it to create icon-based menus–with or without descriptive text. You can also build combination menus, where a selection of items are visible, while the rest are accessible through a hamburger icon. The menus are highly-customizable and can be placed on either the top or bottom of the screen.
4. Keep User Focus in Mind
Pages tend to get busy, with design elements such as massive sliders and animation often distracting users from other important areas. So when navigation is a primary concern, we need to find creative ways to keep those other distractions to a minimum. In some cases, adding whitespace or a bold color to a menu may be enough. Other situations might call for more drastic measures such as a full-screen menu.
WP Smart Fullscreen Menu enables the use of feature-rich and distraction-free menus. The plugin includes some powerful conditional logic that you can use to show specific items based on whether or not a condition is met. It can also be used for multi-step processes, showing each step along a set path. Menus can be placed in the upper corner of the screen or even attached to an existing link.
5. Ensure That Everything Is Within Reach
One of the most frustrating aspects of navigation is having to click around, looking for that one elusive page you need to find. It’s an inherent problem on some content-heavy sites. Thankfully, this is a problem that can be fixed (and prevented) with some practical design. In many cases, a well-crafted mega menu can do wonders for helping users to get around on a large site. Since items can be separated into rows and columns, things can be organized in a way that makes the whole experience less painful for everyone.
Clean up navigation clutter with WP Mega Menu Pro. Choose from either horizontal or vertical menus and style them up with one of the 14 included layouts. The plugin includes a visual layout builder, so you can easily add and organize things to your liking. Besides standard WordPress pages and posts, you can place just about any type of content inside your menu. Registration forms, WooCommerce shopping carts, search fields, widgets and more can help you put everything within a user’s reach.
Make Navigation a Top Priority
A website with poor navigation is significantly hurting its own chances for success. That’s why making sure that it’s easy-to-use and accessible on all devices is a priority.
Navigation should also be tailored to your site’s content and goals. If users have to click through multiple pages to access something important, they’re probably not going to make the effort. Implement a menu structure that will allow people to find what they need as quickly as possible.
Above all, it’s about building a menu that is both simple and intuitive.