Website menus are one of those things you take for granted — until you try to use a really bad one. In the ideal scenario users get an instant overview of what a site has to offer, and they can reach all the important stuff with just one or two clicks. In the worst cases, users end up lost and frustrated, unable to find what they’re looking for. This post will walk you through the basics of menu design and help you understand which options will work best for your site.
Your website’s menu is really important because it helps users to navigate your site. Sure, sometimes a user will arrive on the page they were looking for straight from Google. But usually your visitors will want to look at various different pages on your site. Your menu should be available on every page, so if you design it well it won’t matter where your users arrive: they’ll always be able to find what they need.
Read more: How to optimize a landing page for users »
Besides the essential navigation function of a menu, it’s also a neat way of letting users know what your site has to offer. You can think of it like a banner on each page, saying “this is what we do”. Make the most of that opportunity!
A great site menu should include links to all the most important parts of your website. So it’s up to you to figure out what to put in it, ultimately. But whatever content you decide to include, it’s absolutely essential to make your menu usable.
One of the worst things you can do is overload your menu with too many links. This will make it look cluttered, and users will need to work hard to find what they need. And depending on your choice of menu design, some of the links could end up inaccessible if you have too many. For instance, if you’re using a drop-down menu, users might struggle to access links that appear off-screen.
Do: be selective, or use alternative navigation options
The best option is to be selective about what you include in your menu, but for larger or more complex sites this won’t be possible. Luckily, there are lots of other solutions to a crowded menu.
One solution is to create hub pages or categories, and add these to your menu instead. Then users can navigate to the relevant category or hub, and find their way to more specific content from there.
A second solution is to add sub-menus; these are additional menu options which only appear when the user hovers or clicks on a particular menu area. Sub-menus can be handy, but they can also become cluttered and difficult to use. So if you do use sub-menus, do so in moderation.
The third option is to include a search bar as part of your navigation menu. That way, if a user can’t see what they’re looking for in your menu, they can search your site for what they need. A search bar is a great feature to include, whether your menu is too cluttered or not. But do take some time to configure your search function well, because otherwise
This article was written by Amy Lees and originally published on SEO blog • Yoast.