What Makes a Good Website Navigation System?

14th June 2011

Navigation is the basis of how a user experiences and moves around your website and it seems simple enough, but what makes a good one?

I sat down to consider this and realised that the best navigation systems are those you hardly notice. They’re an effortless aspect of a website which you never really have to consider. In short, they just ‘work’.

Think like a user

Put yourself in the role of the user and really think about your interaction with a web page. Whether it’s an ecommerce site where you’re attempting to buy something, or simply for information, there will be minor differences but the basic principles remain the same. What are the challenges?

  • You may have entered via a blog post or some place other than the homepage
  • You may not be sure exactly what you’re looking for
  • You may want to be able to check out the site’s Twitter stream and other social accounts without losing the page you’re on

There are many more, but these are common ones which immediately jump out to me. Now I want you to consider some ways site owners help overcome these challenges, in relation to their navigation. What have they done to make your life easier? I was able to come up with these main points.

  • Consistency – most people are used to finding a primary navigation bar or panel in the same place on every page, with short and accurate links to your most important pages. There is nothing wrong with giving people what they expect, especially where navigation is concerned.
  • Simplicity – it’s important your primary navigation stands out but this is not the place to get over complicated and outlandish. Some people might have the graphics turned off or javascript disabled when browsing the Internet so try to stick to text, or at least provide a text alternative. You can do great things with CSS these days, so utilise it.
  • Relevance – if you need secondary menus make sure they’re relevant to the current content. Try using related pages/posts to help users pick through.

So far I’ve covered your main page and post links but a navigation system will often contain a few more elements than this.

Internal linking

You can place links to other pages in the actual body text of the page. This can help users find related information quickly. Internal linking can also help search engine spiders to find their way to every single page.

Website Search

If you’ve got a lot of content this is a great way to help users find what they want.


Breadcrumbs are a really simple but effective way of helping users navigate back between your sub categories, especially if you have lots.


What our customers say:

I would highly recommend Hut Six Digital for your website implementation. Jo has been fantastic to work with and has exceptional knowledge in her field. She is friendly, reliable and professional, which has resulted in our fantastic new website launch. Her training was clear and concise, and I know she will be on the end of the phone or email should I need her for a little refresh. She has enabled us to take full control of our new website, which was something other companies have been unable to offer. Excellent value for money too!

Christina Canning (SMS Alarms Ltd, Thatcham)

Jo has been personable and efficient in setting up my website. She did a great job of understanding what I wanted and providing guidance from her wealth of experience. She has explained things in a non-technical way and has been very responsive, patient and flexible in working with me. In short, Jo is great value for money and easy to work with.

Vanessa Rhone (Venus Works, Oxford)

Excellent, efficient service from Jo. Highly recommend.

Xan Rice (Journalist, Oxford)

I am not exactly a technophobe but due to previous experiences of pressing buttons that I have no business pressing I have shied away from doing thing to update or improve my site. I have called on Jo Cox’s expertise several times and she is always quick, efficient and gets you back on track whilst also calming you down. I can honestly say that there is no one else I would call on in an emergency to sort out problems with my website. I have never had a bad experience with Jo’s services or with Jo as the service provider.

Lisa Bentley (Writer, Liverpool)

Jo has been amazing. Through 1-2-1 training sessions she has helped me to make significant improvements to my website functionality. This has not only been cost effective but it also has empowered me to use the skills that I have gained to edit my website myself in the future. She has simplified what I thought would be tricky tasks. I will definitely continue to work with her in the future and I couldn’t recommend her highly enough.

Felicity Wood (Yoga Instructor, Bicester)

Jo took my simple brief outline of what I wanted and turned it into everything I wanted and more. Jo was very professional, efficient and she was patient and understanding with the fact that I was not knowledgeable about building websites or what’s involved. By the end of it Jo had given me and my team a training session around how to manage the website. I would highly recommend her!

Sharon Mulholland (Sandcastle Mortgages, Kidlington)

Jo was completely fantastic! I’d been struggling to make a WordPress blog design work and was completely stumped. I made an enquiry to Jo about some help, and she replied within 24 hours. It was easy to agree on a price for the things that needed to be done, and she had fixed everything within 48 hours of the original enquiry. I had thought my problem was too small for someone to help with it, but I was pleasantly surprised that Jo was happy to sort out the small issues with my site for an extremely reasonable fee. Throughout the process, Jo was efficient, effective and stayed in regular communication. She answered all of my questions, even the really idiotic ones, and nothing was too much trouble. The entire experience was great and I would recommend her in a heartbeat to anyone who needs help with a website project – big or small. She is, in short, superb at what she does.

Imogen Goold (Blogger, Oxfordshire)

I wish I had found Jo earlier. We wanted to progress from making simple text edits to getting more out of the CMS. After a very enjoyable training session, we can now design new pages and keep the website organised. Excellent.

Margaret Hildreth (JP Hildreth Ltd, High Wycombe)