If someone goes to your website and can’t find what they’re looking for quickly, they won’t stay long and they probably won’t return. No matter what page of your site visitors land on, they should be able to answer the following questions:
- What site is this?
- What page am I on?
- What are the major sections of this site?
- Where am I in the scheme of things?
- How can I search this site?
To ensure that anyone who visits your site will be able to answer these questions and find their way around with ease, incorporate the following 4 elements into every page of your website.
1. Site ID or company logo
Make sure that your site ID or company logo is on every page, so users always know that they are on your site. A site ID looks like a brand logo and is akin to a sign that you would see at the entrance of a brick-and-mortar store.
Once you’re in a physical store, you don’t need to see a store sign to know where you are. But online, you can easily lose track of your whereabouts, especially if you’re browsing a large website. That’s why there’s usually a site ID at the top of every page. Generally, a site ID is placed in or near the upper left corner of a web page.
On a growing number of websites, site IDs double as buttons that take you back to the home page. Although this is a useful convention, many users still aren’t aware of it, so you should try to add a link that says “home” to the site ID in order to make it obvious that it’s clickable.
2. A link to the home page
Prevent people from getting lost and leaving your site out of frustration by including a link back to the home page on every page of your site. If users ever lose their way, they can click on the home page link and go back to where they started. It’s like a Get Out of Jail Free card.
3. Persistent navigation
In web design, the term “persistent navigation” is used to describe navigation elements that appear on every page. Persistent navigation gives users something to hold onto as they visit different pages of your site. A persistent navigation menu may include links to a site’s home page, main sections, and important elements that aren’t part of its content hierarchy, such as Help, Site Map, or Contact Us.
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The only pages on which you shouldn’t include a persistent navigation menu are the home page and pages where navigation elements could distract users, such as e-commerce checkout pages or landing pages. Keep items in your persistent navigation menu at a minimum to avoid overwhelming users.
4. Internal search
Many users prefer searching instead of browsing and look for a search box as soon as they reach a website. Jakob Nielsen calls these people search-dominant users.
Search-dominant users are comparable to people who enter a grocery store and immediately look for a clerk to ask where something is rather than try to find it on their own. Online, the decision between searching and browsing may depend on how much of a hurry a user is in and how user-friendly a website’s navigation menu looks.
Unless your website is extremely small, all of its pages should have a search box or a link to a search page. Don’t make the search box hard to decipher. Keep it simple by including only a box, button, and the word “search.”
You may need to spell out exactly what is being searched to avoid confusing users. For example, you could point out to users that they’re searching the entire site or a specific section of the site.
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