Instead of “Home,” you see “The Safe Haven.”
Instead of “Testimonials,” you see “That’s what she said.”
I’m all about being clever, but not when it comes to your site’s navigation menu.
Lemme tell you why.
The Drop-Down Dilemma
The idea for this week’s post came from a conversation in the private Facebook group where my Dream Clients hang out. A client of mine came to share the exciting news that she’d added her new copy to her site. Wahoo!
When I went to click and find it, though, I had to search for it. I actually had to think. (I know, right?)
The problem was this: Her “About” tab had a drop-down menu with two other options. I assumed I had to pick one of those. When neither showed the actual “About” content we’d worked on together, I was confused. I kept searching. This time I clicked actual “About” link, and there it was.
Would new visitors take the time to do that? Probably not.
If your visitors see a drop-down, they’ll assume they need to choose. If they click around and don’t see what they’re looking for, they’ll BOUNCE. (Literally.)
I pointed that out to her, and she fixed it instantly. (Sometimes all you need is a second pair of eyes to help you see what you’re missing!)
Make sure you’re not hiding any headliner content with unnecessary drop-down menus.
If you really want to showcase the content on those drop-down pages, decide if they either a) warrant their own spot in navigation, or b) can be linked from one of the main navigation pages without taking up precious real estate in the menu.
Drop-downs have their place in this world, but they’re just not necessary for most of us.
Keep. it. simple.
The Witty Wordsmith
I get the urge to come up with clever names. REALLY, I do!
Just be careful.
Depending on the nature of your site, your readers may be looking to be informed, entertained, or even inspired. I can tell you one thing for sure:
They’re not looking to be confused.
I used to tell my public speaking students about the importance of forecasting. Tell your audience exactly where you’re headed and how you’re going to get there.
For example, in a speech about apples, I’d recommend this thesis and preview statement to close out the introduction:
“Today I’m going to tell you about apples. First I’ll tell you about their color, then I’ll tell you about the taste, and finally, I’ll tell you about their nutritional benefits. So let’s start with color….”
Isn’t it nice to be able to sit back and enjoy the ride (speech, web-surfing experience) without worrying where the hey you’re headed?
A wise person* once said: A confused mind always says no.
Your readers want to enjoy the ride too. If they don’t get that “Braintrust” means “Archives,” they will (you guessed it!) BOUNCE.
Lost ’em for good.
Watch a friend or family member click around your site for the first time. Then ask questions!
Was the navigation clear? Was s/he unsure what any of the tabs would lead to? How easy was it to find what s/he was looking for? Any recommendations on how to make things clearer?
Be open to feedback and willing to let go of the pet names you’ve created for your tabs. Your audience depends on it.
The Menu Bar Buffet
Ever been to a site that seemed to have every. single. page linked to the navigation menu?
I mean it’s alllllll up there. The only thing missing is a link to the author’s bank statements.
To me, that feels like work. And when I’m searching the web for answers or inspiration, I don’t want to feel like I’m working.
So how do you decide what’s worth including? Think about it from your reader’s perspective. What does she absolutely need to know when she gets to your site?
Only a handful of A-team pages should get top billing.
Two or three more B-teamers can join the party in the bottom navigation.
Everything else is better linked through logically related pages.
If you know you’re guilty of an all-you-can-read menu, look at this a chance for spring cleaning. Don’t be afraid to declutter, reorganize, and start fresh when it comes to your navigation.
It’s okay if existing readers have to readjust. It will be wellllll worth it in the long run.
The goal is to make your site completely intuitive. Your readers should feel like you designed it with them in mind (because you DID)!
Your website is like your virtual home. Create a space where you’re visitors feel comfy. A place where they’ll be happy to kick off their shoes and stay a while.
Speaking of staying a while…
In the comments below, tell me: What is the most OFF-THE-WALL navigation menu item you’ve ever seen (and what did it lead to)?
You can also head over to my Facebook page to share the best and worst menu items you’ve seen. (Just be sure to change names to protect the innocent. They won’t know any better til you share this post with ’em.)
That’s what I got for you today, friend. Thanks for reading!
If you’ve got a few, go ahead and give my brand-new navigation a try.
I recommend starting at my
“That’s what she said.” “Happy Clients” page.
*I googled and didn’t find the wise person’s name. Do you know?