If your navigation bar is the roadmap to your website, it’s probably best to show every page there, right? That way people are sure to find what they need…
Actually, not so much.
Many people take the “more is more” approach to their top (or side) navigation menu—the logic being that if visitors need to find something, at least they’ll be able to find it in the main menu.
The thing is, navigation menus work best when they are short and sweet. There’s a few reasons for this:
- User experience: A short menu is easier and faster for people to read through—if they have to hunt through lots of options, they are more likely to bounce.
- Search engine optimization (SEO): A short, clear menu makes it easier for search engines to navigate, understand, and index your site.
- Design: Most website templates are designed with one line of navigation in mind. Adding more than that can make your navigation look crowded, hard to read, and in some cases “break” the style of your website.
This Jimdo Tip looks at how you can tell if your navigation is too long, and what you can do to fix it.
Does your navigation need help?
One way to assess your website is to simply count the number of menu items in your navigation. A good rule of thumb is to keep it to no more than seven choices. Any more than that, and you may be stretching your readers’ attention spans.
Another sign is if you see your navigation breaking onto two lines. If this is happening to you, it’s a good idea to reconsider how you’re presenting your pages.
Let’s take a look at this example, from our favorite sample site Make Believe Coffee (using the Prague template):
In the first example, there are 13 menu items in the top navigation, and it’s breaking into two lines. As a reader, it’s hard (not to mention pretty boring) to scan through all of them when all you probably want is a cup of coffee.
In the second example, we’ve streamlined the navigation based on the most important information visitors will probably be looking for when they come to our site. This helps our users and makes the website look much cleaner and more organized, too. Because we’re no longer “breaking” the template with too many navigation items, you’ll notice that the template’s original horizontal lines reappear, which frame the menu nicely.
How to streamline your navigation
So if you’ve diagnosed your website as needing a navigation menu overhaul, how do you go about fixing it?
1. Come up with shorter names for your menu items so they can fit on one line. This may not work for everyone, but if your navigation menu is just slightly over the limit, some simple wordsmithing might help. Keep the words you use in your menu relevant, accurate, and short. That way both humans and search engines will easily understand them. For example, it’s better to say “Contact” rather than “Get in touch with us”—both because it’s shorter, and it’s the standard language that people are looking for when they scan a page.
2. Create subpages and dropdown menus. This is a really easy way to fit more items in your navigation without clutter. In the example below, “Beverages” and “Desserts” don’t really need their own space in the top navigation. They make sense nestled underneath “Menu.” You can turn a regular page into a subpage from the Edit Navigation menu.
3. Cut, cut, cut! Some pages might not be necessary at all. In the Make Believe Coffee example above, you may not need a separate page for maps—you could incorporate that information on your Location page. The same goes for Opening Hours—since that’s info most people will want to find right away, you might just put your hours right on your homepage or in your sidebar/footer.
If a page is still necessary, but maybe not essential enough to deserve a space in your top navigation, you can hide it by clicking the eyeball icon in the Edit Navigation area. The page will still be available elsewhere (for example you could link to it), it just won’t have to appear front-and-center on your home page.
If you need help thinking through which pages are the most important, check out this post on the three questions that will help you plan your website.
4. Try a different template. If you’ve rearranged and cut down your navigation menu items and you still can’t get the look you want, a different template might help. Some templates are designed to have simple, short navigation menus (like Zurich, Cape Town, Rio de Janeiro, and Paris). Others are more accepting of large menus with lots of subpages (like Chicago, Bordeaux, and Florence). Jimdo’s Template Filter lets you search for templates based on the kind of menu they have. In general, those with dropdown and breadcrumb menus will be more forgiving of lots of content. Learn more about how to choose a template in our Support Center.
If you want to improve the flow and structure of your website, help people find what they are looking for, and simply make your site look better overall, some simple tweaks to your top navigation can really work wonders. Give it a try on your website and let us know how it goes!