in The Web

Your Users Hate Your Navigation

Navigation is a skill that involves the determination of position and direction. However as easy the navigation in your car might be to determine your position and your direction, as difficult is the navigation on most websites.

Those navigations are just space wasters on websites, they don’t have a real function, or better phrased: they have a function, but they are simply ignored by its users. That is of course not a mistake of the user, they have just found a better way to navigate your site than clicking through endless drop down menus, navigating mega menus or filling out forms to get somewhere they don’t know if they want to be there.

You could even consider that having the need for a navigation on your site shows something is already broken and the navigation is just trying to fix it.

Will it be good?

That question is exactly the issue that many navigations do not answer. The navigation could bring people from a point A (where they are) to an uncertain point B (something that could be their destination). As long as point B is an uncertain destination for your visitors, they will try to find a different route that gives them a higher level of certainty. There is nothing worst than getting lost or ending up somewhere you don’t want to be.

It is not about getting somewhere, it never was

Don’t think that the main purpose of your visitor to navigate as many pages as they can on your website. Do not think it is about visiting as little pages as possible. It is not about navigating at all. It is about task completion: to let people do something they want to do. It is about removing the uncertainty whether or not they can get to their task completion as quickly as possible. Not by showing a vague direction, but by showing the clear path to their goal.

Here comes the user journey

What is the purpose of your navigation? It is not about getting people from A to B, it is about helping the visitor to complete his journey. The visitor has a certain goal (“I would like to know more about X”). He has a starting point of his journey (let’s assume you are so well-known that he directly goes to your homepage, which is unlikely for most brands though) and you have a certain goal as well (“I want to have the contact details of this individual to make a sale in the end”). These three items combined form a very simplified user journey.

If you start thinking in a different way about your website and focus more on user journeys. You’ll notice that there is not a single entrance point (again: your analytics would have told you so already), which means that having a single one-size-fits-all navigation might fail you instantly. Since if the journey starts on the homepage you might need a different navigation than when the journey starts directly at the relevant page (since the user got there through Google). On the latter your might even want to consider to not display any navigation to prevent any distraction for the user.

So kill your navigation now

Seriously, don’t start killing your navigation right now. Start analysing the impact of your navigation right now. Then you will know if you have to ditch your current navigation on your website. Learn from the data what the existing user journeys look like and how you can modify your navigation, or even your website as a whole, to create a better experience throughout the user journey.

The navigation is just something that you might need to provide to help in  determination of position and direction during the user journey. It is not a mandatory item for your website all the time, since a user has not  a burning desire to be navigating all the time. Most often he just want to have task-completion.