Monday, February 18, 2008

Website Navigation

by Pat L

Importance of a navigation scheme

One of the most important tasks when developing your website is creating a navigation system that is effective and easy to use. People have a tendency to try to include everything in the navigation tree all at once. Instead they should follow the same process as setting up the structure for the site and break it down in levels. This would be information relevant to the homepage that directs visitors to the main sections of the site. From the main sections of the site, the user gains access to the sub sections containing content pertinent to that section only. Remember to always include links back to the main sections and your homepage on every page in your site. While you are creating your navigation setup, try to look through your user's eyes. Remember, you are the one creating the structure, so you are biased in your opinions. If you think about what someone else might say or do, then you are one step ahead of the game.

As you create you website navigation, make sure that links can be added in the future with no difficulty. You must always keep in mind that your site must be flexible and open to change because it is never completed. All links should be clear and to the point. It makes no sense to have your visitor try to figure out where they are going. They should be able to quickly look for what they want and then access it in a timely and efficient method. There is a better chance of a visitor going somewhere else if it takes too long for them to find the information they are looking for. Your navigation scheme should stick out and be located in a common spot on every page of your site. Consistency allows your visitors to focus on the content instead of trying to figure another navigation system for the same site.

Linear navigation

Linear navigation provides the same capabilities as your forward and back button on your browser. With this navigation style, you cannot jump around and skip pages. Reading a book or viewing a PowerPoint presentations are also examples of linear navigation. As you read through the pages, it makes no sense to jump around or you might miss an important piece of information. People who create sites with this style often are directing the visitor from a starting point to a predetermined end in a step by step fashion. Your links will not allow the user to anywhere other than where you want.

Hierarchical navigation

Hierarchical navigation allows the visitor to go from a homepage to the main sections of your site and then to the subsections. Visitors can travel through your site without any restrictions. This type of navigation ties all the areas of your site together so any page can be accessed from another in as few clicks as possible. Hierarchical navigation is best used on sites that are filled with information and to be utilized like a library.

Sitemaps for navigating through your website

Sitemaps provide a list of organized links to the content of your website. The same way a table of contents tells you what is inside a book, a sitemap does the same for your website. Your visitors are given a one page view of the information structure that your site is based on. Sitemaps are not meant to be your websites primary navigation but more as a compliment to it.

Navigation bars

A navigation bar gives your visitors the ability to move between the different sections of your website. It should be placed on every page of your site and should be consistent as well. Placement of the navigation bar is entirely up to you. The navigation bar can go on the left side of your page because most people read from left to right. It can also be placed on the top of your page so it is the first thing your visitors see. Some people place it on the right hand side of the page intentionally making a visitor browse through content to then be able to navigate the rest of the site.

Theme and navigation links

The theme for a website is created with the way you use color, fonts and images. During the theme creation process, remember to not clutter your pages with unnecessary content that will draw your visitor's attention from the main content. There are many ways to create a theme. One example might be a newspaper look consisting of black and white colors with a plain font. Themes give a website character and often leave a strong visual impression on the visitor. Your website theme needs to be used on all your pages which helps tie your site together.


Navigation of a website should be an easy process and not require the visitor to take much time in figuring out how to move through your site. Visitors have come to your site looking for information and should be able to find it easily. If a visitor has to waste time figuring out how to get what they want, they will go to another site. Navigation is not just for people, but search engines as well. Set up the navigation to allow search engines to follow the links to index your entire website. Your navigation scheme should appear in the same place on all pages. When a visitor navigates through your site, make sure they can flow through it. Do not set it up so a visitor has to use the back button of the browser to access another page. Through navigation, your visitor will have access to pages in your site, to other sites and to different sections of the pages on your site. You will need to place navigation menus in more than one area on your pages. There are many good ways to help the visitor move through your site. The most simple is a text link. The next is a navigation bar placed on the top or sides. Another is the use of graphic buttons created to help compliment the overall look of your site. It is always good idea is to include links at the bottom of your page in case someone does not feel like scrolling back to the top. Through navigation, your visitor should be able to get where they want quickly, know where they currently are on your site and be able to access other pages on your site for additional information.

About the Author

Pat L. started out creating a few niche sites and during that process gained huge amounts of knowledge in the website development process. You can visit for more information about developing and creating a website.