How to design the website’s navigation?

How to design the website navigation?

First of all, for those new to website terminology, let’s clarify what “Website Navigation” means.

The term “website navigation” refers to the system of menus and links that serve to move (or navigate) the visitor between the pages and sections of a given website.

Entering some sites, we very often come across “peculiar forms of navigation” – sometimes menus popping up out of nowhere, sometimes bars with links where you don’t expect them at all, sometimes “artistically shaped” words that do not at all remind that they are actually menu items.

Some colleagues explain such an approach with expressions such as “creativity” or “innovation”, and are proud of the “unique design” they have created.

However, the truth is quite different and it has nothing to do with these claims of “creativity”. You will ask why I think so? Here’s why:


Have you ever wondered why in all cars in the world some elements are located in the same way?

Despite fierce competition in the world of automotive design, things like the pedals, handbrake, steering wheel, and other critical elements of car control are positioned the same way and look the same in all cars around the world.

You may be thinking that this is the only way a car can be built, right? Wrong! Both the clutch, the brake, the accelerator, and the steering wheel can technically be located anywhere in the car and take any form. And yet, no one allows themselves the freedom and “creativity” to change these generally accepted conventions.

The same goes for website navigation. For one reason or another, some rules for the type and placement of menus on a site have become established in world practice. Every visitor expects them to look a certain way and be in a certain place. If it doesn’t find them there, it simply “leaves” without bothering with that “peculiar” website anymore.

Don’t expect visitors to “learn” or “get used to” your site’s “innovative” design! That’s just not going to happen.

The only thing you can do is strictly adhere to accepted norms and conventions regarding navigation so that visitors can easily and quickly understand how to navigate your site.

If you fail to give them this clarity, don’t be surprised if your site fails.

Predictability in the unknown

Everyone feels insecure and worried in a new and unfamiliar environment.

In such an environment, he/she always looks for something familiar to “grab on to” first. If he/she does not find anything familiar, worried, or confused, he/she tries to escape to another, more familiar and hospitable environment.

Your site is precisely such an unfamiliar environment for each of your new visitors. New design, new theme, new texts … and the only thing he/she’s already used to and can “get hold of” is only the menu.

The menu is the only “familiar” thing for the visitor of your site. If you give him/her a “surprise” there too, don’t expect him/her to show will and insistence to understand the “deep symbolism and creative innovation” hiding behind your “unique” menu.

The visitor will simply click the mouse and leave. Too bad for your designer’s creative efforts, but even more unfortunate for your business…

Let me conclude by giving you the three keywords that you should always keep in mind when building a menu for your site:

  1. Conservatism
  2. Simplicity
  3. Predictability