6 Ways to Optimize Your Web Site Navigation Menu

Web site navigation can make or break the best web site, the best content, and the best intentions. At first glance, the single most obvious sign of a web site that has not had a professional treatment is the navigation. There are a number of basic things that navigation theory can lend to your site build that will help make it a winner.

Keep Menu Items Few.

Generally speaking, on a business site, if you’ve got more than half a dozen horizontal (top) buttons or links (your primary navigation), and more than half a dozen vertical (side) buttons or links (your secondary navigation), you’re losing people through clutter frustration. You’re actually adding challenges to locate information. There’s some give and take, and there are lots of successful sites that ignore this rule, but they’re also doing it on purpose for highly specialized reasons.

Use Hierarchical Navigation.

If you need more than half a dozen buttons each for primary and secondary navigation, it’s time to nest them with parent and child pages. This is a sign of well organized content, and it invites your visitors to think in a more marketing oriented manner.

Navigation = Marketing.

Your main navigation should have the same helpful things that a home page would on a static site: who you are, what you do, where you do it, why choose you, what to do next. Translate that into buttons and you get the classic navigation schema: ABOUT US, SERVICES, COVERAGE AREA, OUR DIFFERENCE, CONTACT US (or BUY NOW).

Use Frequent Posts and Fewer Pages.

Lots of pages of original content can increase SEO (search engine optimization). But don’t overestimate static pages. Dynamic sites beat static sites most of the time, so a single BLOG page frequently updated with fresh, original, relevant posts is the best use of one button there is. Better yet, if you want maximum SEO burn, make the blog your HOME page. Also, a blog page has it’s own forms of tertiary navigation – tags, categories, etc. You don’t need button overload when you blog. If you’re about to create a new page, ask  yourself why it can’t be a post instead?

Blur the Page/ Post Boundary.

One of the techniques we use a lot is to use anchor posts instead of pages as menu items, but keep the posts in categories – for instance, instead of using an FAQ page, we use an FAQ category and just add posts. That affords us some nifty additional features that static pages often don’t have.

Keep Text Simple.

Don’t name a button or navigation link “General Information About Our Company”. Name it ABOUT or GENERAL or INFO. Or, if you need to look expansive, ABOUT US. Whether you choose CONTACT US or CONTACT is not a preference worth agonizing over. But a button called “Contact Us Any Time 24/7 By E-mail or Phone” is silly.

Keep in mind that about 25% of your audience will not make a decision to contact you without being able to research and find all of the information, in a well-organized manner on your site, that they need to make a decision. For them, navigation has got to be effectively organized into some sort of rational structure. Another 25% of visitors won’t contact you without being able to quickly access the straightforward, bottom line options they need to decide. For them, navigation has got to be simple, obvious, and meet some standard expectations.

Follow these general guidelines from web site navigation theory, and your small business web site will likely be more effective at converting more hits into actual contacts.

MadPipe helps small businesses build effective web sites, search engine optimization, and internet marketing. Contact us for a web site audit and an effective digital marketing plan.

Daniel DiGriz

Daniel DiGriz is a corporate storyteller and Digital Ecologist® at MadPipe, which provides creative direction, marketing leadership, and campaign direction for firms that want a stronger connection with their audience. A Digital Ecologist® applies strategic principles from both natural and digital ecologies to help organizations thrive across multiple ecosystems. Daniel hosts podcasts, speaks at conferences, and his ideas have appeared in Inc, SmartBlog, MediaPost, Forbes, and Success Magazine.
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About once / month, corporate storyteller and digital ecologist® Daniel DiGriz weaves together interesting business stories, analytics, & examples for organizations committed to achieving their goals.


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