There are many things that go into having a website that really impresses users, and the navigation has to come first. It doesn’t matter how good the content is or how attractive the page layouts are if the average user can’t figure out how to reach them.
But the navigation isn’t just important for making your website look good— it’s also a vital factor when it comes to your conversion rates, yet it often gets overlooked by companies who focus on their content and pricing only to be left wondering why things aren’t getting better.
If you’re still on the fence about it, here’s why taking a closer look at your website navigation system could be the key to getting more conversions:
Confusion Pushes People Away
When a user reaches your website, a countdown will start ticking in their subconscious. If they haven’t figured out how to achieve the objective that brought them to the site by the time that countdown runs out, they’ll leave. And there are plenty of issues that can get in the way.
Your navigation should be simple and intuitive to the point that a new user can tell within a few seconds where they need to go to find particular sections and functions. If you can manage that, they’ll be far more likely to stick around, and the longer they stay on the site, the more likely it will be that they’ll convert.
If your website navigation looks clear to you, don’t assume that it looks clear to everyone else. Test it thoroughly from the perspective of a new user. You may find that there’s some minor and easy-to-fix phrasing issue that never even occurred to you, or that it isn’t anywhere clear enough what your website actually contains.
Users Can’t Buy What They Can’t Find
Ecommerce giants like Amazon have navigation systems that often seem really messy, but they only look messy. In truth, they’re geared towards search, both internal using search bars and external using search engines like Google. Products are loaded with tags, categories and descriptive data so that every single product has a strong chance of being found.
There are plenty of websites that have very simple layouts (which is good) but leave out important links as a result (which is very bad). Take a look at your analytics data. Are the best pages on your site getting the most traffic? If not, why not? You might find that one of the most important links is too far down the page, or not displayed properly on mobile.
If pages aren’t getting enough traffic, they won’t produce the desired conversions even if they’re highly optimised in isolation. Your website as a whole is only as strong as the weakest link in its user journey chain. On any page of your website, there should be a way for the user to meaningfully proceed— internal search bars are great for this.
AI Can’t Interact with Sites It Can’t Understand
The rise of voice assistants, automated systems and the Internet of Things (IoT) in general has been remarkable in recent years. By 2016, 20% of mobile searches were voice searches, and ComScore believes that 50% of all searches will be voice searches by 2020. This has driven a major shift in design priorities. It isn’t enough to be user-friendly now. You have to be AI-friendly.
This is because AI systems interpret websites very differently, and have much more specific requirements of the sites they interact with. Natural language interpretation has come a long way, but it’s still far from perfect, and something that seems clear to users might be completely impenetrable to a search algorithm.
This demand for predictable structures has been a significant factor behind the move towards platform standardisation, particularly in the ecommerce world. More and more ecommerce startups are setting up their shopping sites using automated and template-driven systems that they know will be kept compatible with AI assistants (Shopify is a particularly good example because it already has a dedicated Alexa app).
Search rankings are already influenced heavily by mobile responsiveness, but the demands of voice search are even greater. If your website doesn’t render well on mobiles, it won’t rank well, and won’t get much traffic as a result. If your website isn’t comprehensible for voice assistants, it won’t get any usage at all through those devices. That isn’t a risk you can afford to take.
If you want your website to drive as much business as possible, you need to think carefully about every aspect of it— not just the content, speed, and design, but the navigation system too.
Without a strong navigation, your users will get lost and frustrated, important parts of your site will be missed entirely, and you’ll fall behind as the wave of automation continues to rise. Start making improvements now, and you’ll soon see the benefits.