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Why top-level navigation choices are important

Getting the main navigation menu right is crucial for all websites. To keep things orderly and focussed, the menu should consists of a limited number of top-level items. Second-level, or submenu items can provide quick access for additional content. Business site owners with many product and/or service offerings are tempted to fit everything in but that should be resisted.

In recent times, ‘Mega Menus’ have become popular but they should be used judiciously. The most appropriate use is for websites that have a wide range of products for sale online. The mega menu can apply quick access to product categories but do not display well on mobile devices.

Considerations for the top-level menu

Most business websites have menus starting with HOME followed by various product and/or service options and ending with CONTACT US. Internet users are aware of this concept and expect to see them displayed prominently. The website logo should also provide a link back to the homepage, but some site visitors may not be aware of this so including a ‘HOME’ option is a good tactic.

  1. Limit to most relevant items. Screen real estate is valuable so it’s important to show your key pages in the most prominent position. For instance, all business sites need pages for Terms & Conditions, Privacy Statements etc, but their links are best placed in the footer section menu. If your site goal is to sell a product or service, give visitors an easy way to see what you have and don’t distract them on the journey.
  2. Cross-site linking. Search engines like to see sites linking to pages within their own structure. Internal linking can be topic-specific and therefore not a great candidate for a standalone menu option. It’s best to plan internal linking from the outset but retrospective structuring is better than none at all.
  3. Finish with a single Call to Action. Decide what you want your customer to do and provide them with a simple, obvious direction. This could be ‘Book now’, ‘Call us’, ‘Enquire now’.
  4. Get the styling right. Navigation choices include left or right justified or positioned in the centre of the page. This includes the site logo so it’s worthwhile spending time on planning and testing to get the right look that is still easy to use.

Plan your customer’s journey through your site

Knowing what you want your site visitors to do is always essential. Then it’s your task to make it as easy as possible to get them to your (and their) goal. Here’s where you start if you already have a site that has seen pages and content added over time. 

  • Limit your desired menu(s) to 2 if you can. 
  • Review your pages and fit more of the pages you have created over time into the menu structure. 
  • If your business has shifted focus you’ll find that some pages are no longer relevant to the menu they are sitting in. If the page is still worth having, consider linking to it from the body of another page or blog post. This actually helps with your search engine relevance so it’s certainly worthwhile. 
  • People reading a piece of content will follow links to ‘read more about . . .’ or ‘learn how to . . . ‘. Google and Bing will crawl these links too so make sure they are included in your sitemap.
  • Remove pages from your site if they are out of date, distracting or just not accurate anymore. It’s important to redirect the URLs as there may be links to them out in the wild. If clicked on after deletion they will display the unwanted ‘Page not found’ error.  To avoid this problem add a ‘redirect’ (301 redirect) for these pages to your home page or any other URL on your site. Ideally, the new link should be somehow related to the original topic.

If you have a business website that could use a structure refresh we’d be more than happy to help.  Contact us now for a free appraisal.

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