Top Four Navigation Pitfalls to Avoid in Web Design

Providing a good web experience depends heavily on good use of navigational aids. While it sounds simple enough, in fact, designing good navigational elements on a site can be tricky. Here are four common mistakes to avoid:

Too many levels.

Don't make visitors do a deep dive into your site to find information. If possible, keep the site reasonably shallow, around three levels, and keep the most important information on the first or second levels. Use design elements, such as sidebars to squeeze more information onto a page, and resist the urge to add another page link.

Unclear identifiers.

Avoid cutesy or long-winded language in identifying URLs and pages. Also avoid unclear words. For instance, "engage" is vague, but "contact" is clearer.

Too many words.

Visitors should be able to cut-and-paste a link without needing to copy a dozen words. That also means limiting your links to one or two words in length. Anything longer is a waste of time. For instance, "See How Our Product Works" is not a good title. But "How It Works" is better.

Avoid "mega flyout menus."

Some ecommerce sites with a lot of product categories will use drop down menus that spawn other drop down menus -- as much as four to five levels down. The problem is visitors can't see those hidden categories so may not go looking for them in the menu. Multi-level drop down menus also have a tendency to collapse, forcing the person to start over again.