Web Design

8 Essential Rules- To Design Modern Navigation Design

Just Total Tech
08 Jul 2015

Content is the base for every website design, but navigation is the fundamental pillar of design. It’s essential to focus on navigation of the website. Easy and familiar site navigation improves user experience and increases conversions. Navigation is the doorway that guides customers through the content of the website. Underestimating effective navigation design will keep your users away from your site.

Content should be found and readable easily. Designing the website navigation is the fundamental step to building your website. And getting it right is just as essential as it will determine whether your site creates confusion or appears as a well-organized and well-framed design that takes your customers exactly where they want to go.

It not only helps the customers get around the website but, helps you like the website developer display the most important information on your site. A good website navigation design helps the user to easily surf and go through the website, leading to better interest generation and conversion.

So, your ability to lay a good foundation to the website will determine to a great degree the success you will generate. Navigation works as an Index on site, if you have a large book your table of content leads the reader to find out what they need so as the navigation works on site.

Here are some rules to take into account an effective navigation system.

1. Plan the Information Architecture (IA) First

You need to develop the content for the website before engaging with the design layout for navigating the site. The usability of the website depends on your ability to have an overview of the content and at the same time be able to understand and manipulate it. The design must be approached keeping in mind the users’ perspective and their ability to relate to the content rather than the creator’s vision.

What you need to consider are the pages that can be created so that content can be divided into paragraphs to form into sensible sub-headings or content tabs, making it relatable and functionally feasible for all types of users and allow for future addition to the page.

2. Simplicity is the Key to Navigation

Users want to access the information they want without much difficulty or without too much time consumption. Keeping the navigation simple will ensure that the usability of the website is not hampered. Make sure that the navigation bar is visible and easy to spot, and not cluttered within the content.

The navigation area itself should not be crowded, and users should be presented with minimum choices without limiting their options. You can also use icons at some places to help users easily understand the inside without reading labels. Highlight the section that they are in. It must also be ensured that a key to the main menu or home page is provided so that in one click, the user is able to go back to the main page.

Organizing the content effectively is the key to simplifying navigation which will be beneficial for the customers and the owners of the website as well.

3. Pick the Right Orientation

As the screen of a computer is generally in landscape format, it makes sense to orient your navigation horizontally to make for easier viewing.

However, e-commerce websites, which have to list numerous articles, tend to go for portrait navigation. This is done to avoid cluttering that would have resulted if they picked the landscape orientation. So the navigation design differs from one website to other because everyone has a different purpose.

4. Use Sub-headings and Titles that are Obvious

It is important to list the navigation bar in a way so as to correctly lead the customer to the desired content on the website. The purpose of a tab or button should be indicated in the name or title of the tab.

Use of ambiguous or misleading terms will misdirect customers, and this will imply the failure of the navigation system. The purpose of an effective navigation design is to direct the customers to desired destinations that are relevant to the customers’ intention of visiting the website, to begin with.

Using general terms can lead to the term covering a broad area that is not conducive to the customer or site owner’s purpose or end. Hence, it is essential that terms denote correctly and precisely what content lies within them.

5. Lesser the Options, the More Effective

The idea is not to confuse the website users but to make the experience least chaotic. Keep the number of available options minimum but sufficient for the customers. The number of options available should be sufficient without overwhelming the users of the website. Keep the number of navigation menus at a minimum while designing.

A top-down menu is the most popular option when it comes to breaking down the content of the website. A long list can prevent the users from gaining access to the most important content of the site. The aim of the website is to provide customers with the maximum amount of information without causing confusion to them.

6. Different Navigation for Mobile vs. Desktop

Navigation design should be different for each device. The design you use for the desktop may not works the same on mobile as the screen of both the device is different. Desktop have a landscape screen, mobile has portrait resolution. If you apply the same design you are using on the desktop it will not be clearly visible for a mobile app. So designer has to design separately for both the device.

For example, on a desktop, an Amazon navigation design applies the parallel or landscape design. Categorize the menu on a landscape tab. Now imagine, they apply the same design for mobile. Not a practical option right. They have not directly translated the same design for mobile. We can see a portrait design on the mobile app.


On mobile, you can’t put so many options on landscape as the screen of the device is portrait. And for mobile, a drop-down menu is a must. We can see the menu and category options have a drop-down menu. The design for mobile is minimized compared to the design of the desktop.

Make sure the concept, colors, highlights remain the same, the base of the site should not be different but the navigation design should be different.

7. Consistency is important for a Website

It is important that the navigation design is consistent throughout the site. A user-friendly site is one in which content is laid out consistently to familiarize the format to the customer. The same color, font, type, and place of the navigation bar should be maintained throughout the site.

Navigation should be designed so as to give users an easy knowledge of how to move through the site without being bothered by familiarizing with new designs with every passing page. To keep the customers from shifting allegiance out of frustration, it is essential that they feel like they know the page well and can navigate it without any problem. Familiarity, in this case, does not breed contempt.

8. Apply the Three-Click Rule

The three-click rule simply states that the users should be able to reach or access the information they seek within three clicks. And upon finding the required data, they should be aptly reminded and made aware of the information thus uncovered.

The three-click rule minimizes the time and effort required to get access to the information desired. Minimum effort but the maximum result is the key philosophy of this rule. Users may get frustrated and switch to other sites if they do not find information within a few seconds.

In closing

Keep in mind that you are designing for your users. The easier your website is for them to use, the more likely they are to use it. If the users find it clutter-free and easy to navigate, eventually it will increase conversion rate.

The user, upon reaching the information must be made aware that what the user sought has been found. Designing a website with effective navigation is a key to successful business.