How should I design my website menu?

How should I design my website menu?

Your website menu, often called “Tabs” or “Navigation” is a critical component for your website. Getting it right will help you accomplish two key goals. Your users will have a positive experience finding information on your website and Google will equally have an easier time crawling and ranking your website in search results.

User and Visitor Experience

As it relates design and user experience, it is generally a best practice to keep you top level navigation to a maximum of 7 or 8 items. That’s the max. This means when you get to that number in your menu, you are essentially pushing the boundaries of an efficient and effective user experience. If your website currently has 8 or more menu items, I would encourage you to assess whether you can reduce the number of navigation items into a smaller number of categories. When I walk through this process with clients, I tend to follow a model that is very similar to how a library would organize and categorize their books. If you distilled the process used to organize books down into a few steps, it essentially involves creating categories at the highest level, for example, Science, Business, History followed by sub categories. The key to creating these high level categories is to ensure that each category is mutually exclusive, that is to say, no overlap. If you’re able to follow these rules, this will help you reduce the number of website menu items and will also help your visitors find the information they are looking for.

Naming and Search

As far as the naming is concerned, I tend to recommend to my clients to try, as much as possible, the use of common page names. Using terms like “About Us”, “Contact”, “Products”, “Services”, as top level items can yield two benefits. For one, it helps Google better understand your page and eventually provide structured queries for your visitors when they search for you (these are the links that appear underneath your search results in Bing or Google). Secondly, it gives your users an easier way to find content. There’s no exact science to naming, however,  if you decide to deviate away from traditional page names, make sure it is evident what a user can expect to find in each portion of your website. If it’s confusing to you, chances are it will be confusing to your visitors. Lastly, try to keep the number of words and letters of your website menu items short. I’ve noticed on a lot of websites that have 3 or 4 words for a single menu item. This isn’t necessarily going to penalize you from a search standpoint and is more of an indicator that perhaps your categorization technique isn’t efficient enough.