Create navigation

1. Define your content

What do your site visitors want to know when they visit your website?
Ask yourself all the questions your customers could ask you at a phone call or by talking with you. Write down these questions and save them as a list, you will need them later.

Questions your customers could ask:

  • Who are you?
  • What can I do on this website?
  • What do you offer?
  • What does it look like?
  • How much does it cost?
  • Can I buy it online?
  • Do you send it to my country?
  • How long will it take?
  • Can I send it back?
  • Who are your customers?
  • Have you won some awards?
  • How good is your customer service?
  • How can I contact you?
  • Where are you?
  • How can I reach you?
  • What are the terms and conditions?
  • What do you do with my personal data?

2. Define your pages

Group similar questions together and organize them in pages.
Every page should have a single topic. Don’t put unrelated questions together on a page.

3. Organize your pages

If you have a lot of pages with similar topics you will have to group them together. Organize your pages by category and create section names for your global navigation. This step is only necessary if you have pages with similar topics Don’t put unrelated categories together.

Let’s say you have many different products or services to offer. In this case it makes sense to categorize your pages and create a section called “Products” with subpages.

On the other hand, if you sell only cheese and wine it’s much better to create two pages and name them “Cheese” and “Wine” instead of creating a section called “Products”.

Categories you could create:

  • About
  • Contact
  • Products
  • Menus
  • Location
  • Services
  • Support
  • Special Offers
  • Blog
  • Jobs
  • Terms of use
  • Privacy

Note: You can also organize your website by task, by user, by language, by location or by date (if you write a blog) instead of creating categories. I advise you not to organize the website by corporate department unless it’s very important for your users to know your organizational structure.

4. Create a sitemap

Now that you know all your pages and section names you can create a sitemap.
Go to www.writemaps.com and create a simple sitemap for your website.

Example of a sitemap

  • The first level on the sitemap (under the home page) illustrates the global navigation.
    Put the most important pages or sections of your website in the global navigation. Start with the most important topic on the left side and continue prioritizing them from left to right. The topics in the global navigation should give your site visitors a quick overview of what your site offers.
  • The second level on the sitemap illustrates the subpages. Put the most important subpages of the categories on the top of the local navigation. The local navigation can be displayed inside the global navigation or on the left scan column.
  • Define also which pages are shown in the Utilities and the Page Footer. Here you can display pages like Terms & conditions, Privacy policy, Help, FAQ or Contact if they are not already displayed in the global navigation.
  • If possible don’t use more than 3 navigation levels. It’s better not to make navigation too deep because the subpages on low navigation levels have much less visibility than the pages on the first and second level.

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How to create good navigation

The navigation has to make it instantly clear what kind of information is waiting behind the next click. When organizing your sites keep in mind that the section names must work as a page name.

Organize your content

  • by category when all your site visitors have the same basic task in mind but they have different interests (shop with different categories). Be consistent when naming categories.
  • by task when your site visitors want to accomplish different tasks.
  • by user when your site serves different groups of users with different goals.
  • by language when your site visitors speak different languages.
  • by location when it’s relevant which geographic region your site visitors are from.
  • by date when you write a blog.

Do’s

  • Organize your content in a way that makes sense to your site visitors.
  • Put the most important elements on the top of the navigatioGroup similar items together and put them next to each other in the navigation.
  • Write short and clear section names.
  • Don’t use fancy names.

Don’ts

  • Don’t organize your website by corporate department unless it’s very important for your users to know this.
  • Don’t combine a single-noun link name, such as apartment in Amsterdam with a verb-noun name such as rent a bike.
  • Don’t use fancy names for categories.
  • Don’t put unrelated categories together.
  • Don’t use the word and to put two categories together. For example restaurants and bars.
  • Don’t use branding and marketing terms for navigation.

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