One of the most critical things to get right when you design and develop your website is your navigation. When I say navigation I’m referring to anything that allows the user to move through your website and on occasion navigate away from the site to another useful resource.
Your menus are the first thing you need to concentrate on and can literally make the difference between a user exploring your website or leaving in frustration before they get a chance to see what you offer.
There is a massive range of different ways you can make and implement menus on your site.
The most common varieties include;
- CSS Menus
- Flash Menus
I recommend you use a CSS menu as they are friendly to search engines and allow lots of customizations.
A CSS menu is quite simple really. At the core of these menus is a simple UL list.
Have a look at the example I link to near the bottom of this article to show what a simple UL list is (I can’t include code examples within this article for some reason)
A UL list won’t produce a good looking menu though so you need to use CSS to turn it into something that looks like a proper menu.
You will first need to place a ‘link stylesheet’ command into the Head section of your page that will point to your CSS file.
Check the example which I link to below regarding how to do this.
Once you have done this, you can add a ID parameter to your UL menu which will then look at the CSS file mentioned in the Link command and style the menu accordingly.
A good example of building a simple menu and styling it with CSS can be found here.
Menus are very important but are not the only way to navigate through a website.
You can use plain links within the content of your pages to point to other relevant pages within your site or even other relevant websites.
For example, if you are displaying information about an event that you are hosting, you can include a link to the event sign up page.
Using links can very much help the user experience and allow them to explore more of your pages.
Don’t overdo these links though as it can be a little off putting if your pages are full of them.
Graphical buttons are another useful way to help your users navigate around your site.
They are very simple to implement. You can either make the graphic yourself or get a graphics designer to make it for you. All you then do it insert the image where you want the button to be then add a link to the image property. This is easy to do if you use one of the popular CMS (Content Management System) platforms such as Joomla.
A well designed button can often grab the attention of the user more than a link.
- Latest Articles Summary
Another useful way to help your users get around your site is to display a summary of the latest articles or pages that have been added to your site in a box somewhere on one or more of your pages.
For example, it could show the latest 5 pages with the title and a brief summary which allows the user to click to navigate to that page.
These are especially useful in blog where a user can click on a category which displays all the posts relevant to that particular category.
Most CMS and blog platforms will have an option to automatically allocate posts or pages to a category so it isn’t usually a lot of work to implement them.
Tags follow a similar idea to categories. You can assign a number of ‘tags’ which are one or more words.
For instance, if you wrote a post about your special pizza recipe then the tags could be;
‘secret pizza recipe’
‘how to make a pizza’
Don’t overdo the tags though. I try to keep them to around five tags.