Best practice in web design

Website navigation best practice


When it comes to websites, the navigation acts like a compass guiding users to different areas around the site. Keeping it simple, organised and consistent throughout the website helps with the overall user experience.

Navigation bars and buttons

Navigation menus are most often placed horizontally at the top of a website, or vertically on the left. It is important to be:

  • consistent with the placement of navigation - this can increase the visual appeal of your design and make it easier for the users to find their way around your site
  • clear and concise when assigning categories in your navigation - this can help users to quickly and easily access information about your company or products

Remember also that every graphic you add to your website for navigational purposes increases the download time for the user, so keep navigation buttons simple and reuse the same ones throughout your site.

Ease of finding information

The success of your website will largely depend on how easy it is for users to find the information that they require. In addition to providing good navigation, you can help your users find information by including:

  • a site map
  • a search facility
  • well-organised content
  • content planned and tested with users in mind

You can also use links within your site to relate different ideas or content. Try to anticipate what information users are likely to want next, but at the same time leave them free to make their own navigational choices.

The 'three click rule'

The 'three click rule' is an unofficial design rule that suggests that users should be able to find any information on your site within no more than three mouse clicks. This may not always be achievable if you are designing a large site. In this case, keeping the user informed of where they are, where they have come from and where they are going, should be enough to keep them on task.

If your website is large or has a complex structure, consider using a breadcrumb trail to show users where they are within the website. This will help with navigation and can also improve your visibility in the search engines. For more, see search engine optimisation.