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Tips to a smooth navigation system

The one thing that a website must have to keep visitors from leaving it in a hurry is a well-planned, smooth navigation structure. Poor navigation confuses visitors and even if you have superior content and design, you are likely to lose your visitors, possibly customers, as they wouldn't know where to go next. A properly designed navigation gives a clear structure and organization to the website. Visitors find it easier to understand where they are, what's on offer, and where they would like to go next. This is in turn wins the confidence of the visitor, turning her into a potential customer and encourages her to further explore the products/services on offer and eventually make a purchase decision. A website's navigation can be presented in many ways.

You can have a top menu bar and a bottom row of links or menu bars along the left or right side of the screen or even in a frame present in every page of the website. Whatever the way may be, the main purpose is to enable visitors to easily access any page with maximum of two or three clicks, with the main page just one click away. Let's now discuss some of the 'must-have' navigational elements to make every page of the website smoothly accessible: 1. Link to Home page : Every page of the website, no matter how deep within the site it is, must have a link to access the home page.

Likewise, the home page must have links to all other pages of the site. This is essential to enable visitors to return to the starting point if they have ventured too deep within the website. Also the main logo which appears on each page of the site must take the visitor back to the home page with one click. 2. Facilitate Page jumps: Visitors seldom read whole pages especially if they don't find their desired information there.

Long pages should give visitors the option to jump to other pages if they wish to. Each page should thus have links other relevant pages of the website 3. Create Breadcrumb trail : If a visitor lands on some inner page through search engines, he/she will be confused as to where to go next. In this situation, building a breadcrumb trail proves to be a great help.

Breadcrumb trail is a row of links at the top of the page as well as at the bottom, that shows how the site is structured. This trail tells the visitor his/her position in relation to the rest of the site and provides links to go to home page or any other page. 4. Don't forget a Sitemap : A site map link is as important as the home page link. It presents the whole structure of the site in an at-a-glance format, making navigation very easy. Also it helps in search engine optimization (SEO) efforts as it enables the search engine spiders to locate the inner pages easily.

5. Have Multi-tier navigation structure: Complex or large web sites must have multi-tier navigational structure which helps visitors to reach the relevant page without going through various unrelated pages. 6.

Maintain uniformity : To avoid confusion, navigation structure and its presentation should be uniform throughout the site. It should not be vertical in one page and horizontal in other pages. Choose the type of navigation systems that suits your site best There are two types of navigation systems - global and local. While global navigation operates at macro level and helps visitors in navigating through broad general categories, local navigation operates within a particular section or a page helping visitors to reach a specific location within the that section.

Both have their own takers though according to a study conducted by Prayag Consulting, most prefer the global navigation system. If the website doesn't have more than a few pages, its navigation system is not a very complex affair. But if the site has hundreds of pages and multiple categories offering multiple services, a prudent mix of both global and local navigation systems is required to make visitors access the information they are looking for, quickly and easily.

Cyrus Bilimoria is a web site designer and an amateur writer. He has contributed several insightful articles on developing interactive web site designs with the help of flash web site templates.

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