Keep Your Navigation Consistent!
by: Jamie Kiley
One of the single most important aspects of effective navigation is
consistency. Why? There's a simple reason.
Visitors want familiarity.
They are more comfortable and more trusting if they know things are
going to remain the same from page to page. They have a certain sense of
confidence from knowing what to expect.
If a visitor can quickly become familiar with your navigation, it's
much simpler to actually navigate. And of course, that's the whole
purpose of navigation, right?
Besides familiarity, there's a second reason to be consistent. It
helps your credibility.
Consistency in your navigation helps you present a unified, cohesive
image to your visitors. In other words, you look polished,
well-thought-out, and on top of things. Your visitors get the impression
that you "have it together".
On the other hand, if your navigation is inconsistent, it reflects
badly on you and your company. You'll look disorganized and
Here are 3 ways to maintain consistency in your navigation:
1. Use global navigation (which is a set of your main links that
appears on every page of your site in the same place).
Global navigation is an absolute necessity. It ensures that visitors
can always get to the main sections of your website quickly and easily.
Global navigation options must be the same on every page. Many sites
resoundingly fail in this area. Often, the order of the links varies
from page to page, or some links are missing on certain pages. This
confuses even experienced web users.
2. Keep the appearance and placement of buttons and secondary links
the same throughout the site.
I recently ran across a site that used three completely different
styles of buttons in as many pages. This variation blew any unified
appearance they hoped to have. It also made it hard to recognize which
graphics were links and which were not, since there was no
consistently-used symbol for "clickability".
On another site, secondary navigation options were on the left on
some pages and on the right on other pages. That's a no-no. Visitors
will never be sure where to look for additional options, particularly
since this site was visually busy. Don't move links around from page to
Link colors, button styles, fonts, and placement should be the same
throughout the site. The goal should be for visitors to instantly
recognize a link when they see it.
3. Stick with conventional design standards.
In addition to being consistent within your site, you also need to be
consistent with other sites. Don't get too far out on the fringe in
trying new things.
If you use a navigation scheme that's completely different from what
you see on most other sites, visitors will likely be confused. Make your
navigation look and function like something visitors will be familiar
with from other sites.
|About The Author
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