One of the most important things you can do to improve website usability (UX) is to have intuitive and easy-to-understand menus. How do you do that? The first step is to label your menu items using clear and concise language that’s based on your customer’s website behavior. Most importantly, you should follow labeling conventions for your market/industry and don’t try to reinvent the wheel. If you sell products, label the main products section “Products.” If you have a company overview page/section, use the “About Us” label. Take a KISS (Keep it Simple Stupid) approach.
Sounds simple? It is, but as websites grow over time ALL menus tend to become cluttered and disorganized and periodically they need an overhaul. Within ten minutes of searching on Google, you can find several high profile websites that have forgotten the basics of having a well organized menu and navigation system. Menu bloat has gotten so bad that some companies have thrown in the towel and have gone towards the “Big Menu” approach, in which massive menus pop up when the user rolls over menu items. Also known as the “Kitchen Sink” approach, big menus are the latest menu design fad; unless executed flawlessly, this approach is a mistake, since it forces users to make numerous complex decisions as they navigate your website.
The other major flaw in most menu systems is forcing the organization’s internal structure and departmental labeling into the menu system. This poses significant usability challenges for visitors who are not intimately familiar with your company’s internal structure. It’s what we call an inside- out approach.
The big fix: Think like your customers and use website keyword search data to drive your menu design. Also, avoid menus that are more than 2 levels deep if possible. In the end, overhauling your menu system every six months will provide significant usability dividends and increase customer engagement.
To recap, here are the 3 things you need to know: