Frightening dead-end paths everywhere you turn. Unused possessions draped in dust and spider webs. A hopeless feeling that you'll never get out alive.
This may sound like a haunted house straight out of your worst nightmares, but it's also a fitting description of far too many websites. If you don't fix the navigation mistakes your site suffers from, visitors will run away faster than a half-naked camp counselor trying to elude a masked serial killer.
Here are four ways to make your page's navigation a little less ghoulish.
Create a Clear, Stable Menu
The collapsible, three-line "hamburger" menus are as popular as they are controversial – some like them, some don’t. If you do decide to use them, just make sure they are easy to find and don't blend in too well with the design of your site. Even a few seconds of searching for a menu icon can leave visitors wondering where the heck your page content is.
One thing you shouldn't do with your menu is create a drop-down overlay, where hovering over a main navigation choice leads to the appearance of many other options. As Andy Crestodina points out on the Kissmetrics Blog, users that place their cursor over a menu item have already made the decision to click on it. When a brand new list of choices pops up, it creates a conflict – the visitor is forced to second-guess their original decision and decide whether they want to visit the main page or one of the new sub-menu options they have suddenly been presented with.
Get Rid of Your "Corporate Synergy"
There's a reason so many navigation options all over the Internet use the same word choices: they work! Lots of sites overthink this element in an attempt to be creative. It's an admirable effort, but users don't really care about your "Guiding Company Beliefs," or "Work Culture Philosophy." It only leads to confusion, and like Count Dracula at a blood drive, confusion is a deadly predator waiting to wreak havoc on your site design.
Check out the simplicity of the Goodyear homepage: it features a simple menu with clear, understandable options: three out of the five are just one word, and no selection has more than 12 letters total. It clearly expresses the content each page contains and doesn't try to get fancy.
I don't want to see a panoramic video that takes me through the Alaskan mountains. I don't want to see a picture of your golden retriever wearing a doggy shirt with your logo on it. I don't want to see a stick-figure reenactment of the way your company was founded.
Sorry to be harsh, but no one cares. Your visuals need to be simple, load quickly, and focus on the user. Be especially careful with the way you use videos – is your video a valuable addition that adds to your user experience, or are you just flexing your design muscles? If it's the latter, the video probably isn't worth the slowdown your site will experience from it.
If you really like video, consider using a cinemagraph, a relatively new form of media that falls somewhere between a picture and a video: it's like an animated GIF on steroids. The same rules apply – make sure it's relevant to your page and your brand, or there's really no point.
Give People What They Want: Front and Center
This is the most critical haunted house mistake to correct. It's frustrating when your visitors browse your website looking for one thing and can't find it. Not only will this cause your bounce rate to skyrocket, it will also prevent repeat visitors from checking out your page again and again; once they know they can't easily find what they need, they're unlikely to come back.
Don't bury one of your site's most critical pages in a submenu or force visitors to scroll endlessly to reach what they need. Real estate company Zillow does a great job of this:
Look at how simple and intuitive the real estate search is. You tell it if you are looking to buy, rent, or sell property, type in the zip code, and click the search button. Zillow offers a plethora of content for visitors: real estate agent listings, mortgage resources, even tips about how to design the different rooms of your home. But the company understands that their most popular feature is the property search tool, and its placement on the site reflects that popularity. Smart move.
Not sure which sub-page gets the most views? You can set up a segment subset using a tool like Google Analytics to analyze the traffic of each individual page. Using SEMrush's "Pages" feature, you can take it one step further and learn which pages are receiving the most organic search traffic, which can help with the optimization of the individual components of your website.
Don't let your website spook your visitors. Follow these tips and keep the monsters where they belong: out of your page navigation and in the real haunted houses.