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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What to place in the content area

This area contains the main topic of your website. The content area provides the page name, the content and an update date. Large sites also provide breadcrumb navigation, jump-to-top links and paging navigation on the content area.

Mock-up with content area following web conventions

Click on the image to open the interactive mode

What’s the page name?

Page names are the street signs of the Web. Every page needs a clear and unique page name. It should be prominent and frame the rest of the content.

Where to place it?
Place the page name at the top of the content area. Use a different size, colour and typeface to make it clear that it’s the heading for the entire page.

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What are the basic design elements?

Eye-tracking studies have shown that users expect some elements to be in a specific place on the page. Follow the web conventions and users will understand your site quickly.

Make sure your template provides the following areas and make sure they appear on the same place on every page:

  1. Page header
  2. Content area
  3. Scan column (left, right or both)
  4. Page footer
Mock-up following web conventions

Click on the image to open the interactive mode

Related links