Website navigation is the way you make information on your site easy for visitors to find. It is important for several reasons: it improves customer experience, prevents users abandoning your site and helps with SEO. In this post, we’ll show you eight steps to improve navigation on your website.
The elements of website navigation
Website navigation includes the way you organise content on your website, i.e., creating categories and subcategories, and how you help users find that information, for example, through the use of different kinds of menus, internal links, sitemaps and calls to action.
When a website is well structured, a user can quickly find the information they need. This makes their experience of using your website better, keeping them on the site and increasing the chances of a conversion. At the same time, search engines can index your site more effectively and get a better understanding of it. This is because the hierarchical structure of your internal links shows the relationships between the pages on your site, indicating which are the most important.
Using our eight steps to better website navigation will help you to build a better website or improve your existing one. Here they are:
1. Create a sitemap
If you want to improve navigation on your site, you need to start by having a complete overview of everything it contains. This can seem quite a daunting task if you have a large site with quite a few categories and it can be easy to miss pages out if you just make a written list. The easy solution is to create a sitemap.
Sitemaps are a list of all your categories and subcategories and the pages, posts, product pages, etc. within them, together with a link to each one. There are two main types of site maps, HTML and XML. XML sitemaps are very useful for helping search engines navigate your site and you can upload these to Google Search Console whenever you make a change to your site. For helping you organise your site and for providing a simple map that visitors can use, you need an HTML sitemap. Both types can be created automatically.
There are lots of free online tools you can use to do this and all you need to do is type in the homepage URL and the tool will do the rest of the work for you. With an online tool, you’ll be sent a file to download which you can publish on your website. A better solution, however, is to use a sitemap generator plugin. These are better because they automatically update the sitemap whenever you change your website. These can create XML sitemaps and upload them automatically to Google Search Console and create an HTML sitemap page viewable by visitors to your site.
Once you have your sitemap created, you’ll have a complete overview of all your site’s pages and you’ll be able to see how well they are organised and what needs changing. This is the first step to making improvements.
2. Organise your site for your visitors
When creating a new site or reorganising an existing one, you need to put yourself in your visitors’ shoes. Where do they land? What information will they be looking for? How can you make that information easy to find? How can you get them through their journey funnel with the minimum number of clicks? The main pages or categories are those that should be easiest to access and at the top level of your menus and other navigational aids.
3. Don’t overpopulate a menu’s top level
Users should be able to take in a menu’s top level in a single glance and be able to instantly find and click on the topic they want to find information about. If you have lots of categories on your site, putting them all on the top menu can make it confusing. Though you can cut out less important ones, a better solution might be to create a small number of new higher-level categories that your existing categories can become subcategories of.
4. Limit top navigation menus to two levels
Some top menus are very complex and enable users to see three or four levels of subcategories. The problem is that they are often too complicated and it’s easy for users to get confused and lost with so much choice. The most effective menus have two levels: the always visible top level and a list of subcategories within them that appear when a user hovers over or clicks. Keep it simple.
5. Keep menu titles brief
Simple, tidy, easy on the eye menu titles make it easier for users to find the right link and help your site look more attractive. If they are long and the menu looks cluttered, some users won’t even bother searching, they’ll just abandon the site and go elsewhere – especially if they are using smartphones with smaller screens. Ideally, keep them to a couple of words, max.
6. Make use of footer and secondary menu conventions
Nearly every internet user knows that it is standard practice for websites to have menus or internal links in the footer of pages. They also know that these menus and links are generally reserved for specific types of information. While the top menu usually includes about us, products, services, contact us, etc., the footer is generally used for customer help. Its where users go to find blogs, forums, customer services, knowledgebases, shipping information, etc.
Another convention is to have a secondary menu in the header which contains links to the user account, shopping basket, wish lists and so forth. While the main menu is for people looking for general information, products and services, this secondary header is specifically for shoppers, existing customers and members.
7. Remember to use clickable call-to-actions
Surprisingly, some businesses miss out on quite a few sales simply because visitors don’t know how to take the next steps along the sales journey. Calls to action (CTAs) tell them what to do, e.g., buy now, call our sales team, subscribe to our newsletter, etc.
These are vital actions that you need your customer to make if you want your website to be successful. For this reason, you have to make it easy for them to navigate to that next step. Your CTA needs to be highly visible, clearly labelled and contain a link that takes the visitor directly to that next step.
8. Don’t forget mobile users
Finally, when creating menus and internal links, do remember that these have to work equally effectively on small screen mobile devices as they do on laptops. Indeed, as people now spend more time surfing on their phones than they do on other devices and are increasingly using them to make purchases, navigation needs to be centred more on mobile users than it does on those with PCs. Make sure your site’s navigation works effectively on mobiles by using the Google Mobile-Friendly Test.
Better website navigation enhances customer experience and can help your site boost conversions. It also improves SEO, helping all the pages to be indexed so that more searchers can find them. Hopefully, the eight steps mentioned here will help you improve the navigation on your website.
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From accountancy firms to vets, professional service businesses have become increasingly reliant on their websites as a means to promote their services and acquire new clients. While the content and design of a website are important for its success, equally vital are the services of a web host. A good web host can provide the security your business needs, ensure your website stays online, offer technical support to deal with any issues and much more, helping your business flourish and protecting your online reputation. To help you choose a hosting solution that’s right for professional service companies, here are seven essential hosting features that you should look for.
1. Robust security
As a professional business, the good standing of your company will be of the utmost importance. In today’s online world, that means ensuring that you comply with regulations, such as GDPR, and that you keep your website and the personal information it gathers secure.
Unfortunately, the growing sophistication of cybercriminals means there is an increased need to defend your website from ransomware, phishing attacks, malware infections and hacking. These can result in cybercriminals stealing data, corrupting files, taking over websites and even deleting them. The consequences can be catastrophic. 60% of businesses that fall victim fail within six months and those that survive often face severe disruption, expensive restoration, reputational damage and fines.
Choosing the right web host can have a significant impact on the security of your website. Look for a vendor that provides a comprehensive set of security tools, including a strong firewall, intrusion prevention, malware scanning, email scanning, spam filtering, SSL encryption, email signing certificates and more.
2. Room for expansion
The rapid shift to a digital marketplace means its highly likely, regardless of how much your business grows, that you will need to expand your hosting provision in the future. The consumer demand for better customer experiences means, to stay competitive and relevant, all professional services are having to offer a wider range of online services to their clients. These include website chatbots, customer-facing tools, online consultations, video explainers and a growing number of other services that need to be accessible via your website and available 24/7. At the same time, the growing reliance on data for making business decisions means professional service companies are collecting more data and making increased use of tools like data analytics and AI.
Adopting these tools and technologies means expanding your hosting provision. You’ll need bigger hosting packages with more storage and you’ll require faster-performing servers that can handle greater demand, such as VPS, dedicated servers and the cloud. What you don’t need is to have to migrate everything to a new vendor whenever you expand. Ideally, therefore, you need a vendor that offers all these forms of hosting and which makes it easy and quick for you to upgrade to a more powerful solution when it is required.
3. Remote backups
Remote backups are the most important insurance policy you can provide for your website. If your site, applications and server data are lost, whether that’s due to hardware failure, malicious activity or accidental deletion, having an up to date backup means you can have it back online swiftly and with little disruption to your business operations. Without a backup, such a disaster could put the future of your business at risk.
The best backup solutions can be scheduled to occur automatically at regular intervals, are stored remotely from your own server, are encrypted for security and tested for integrity to make sure that what you have backed up is not corrupted.
4. Guaranteed uptime
The internet is a 24/7 marketplace and that means it is important that a professional services website remains available to customers at all times. Failure to be online can lose business, annoy customers and damage your reputation.
While essential maintenance, such as security patching, means there will be short periods when a web host has to take your server offline, you should still expect uptime guarantees of 99.9% or greater, depending on the type of hosting (shared, VPS, dedicated server or cloud) you have chosen.
5. 24/7 expert technical support
Professional services business, perhaps better than any other type of company, will understand that it is always best to use an expert. When it comes to running a website, especially as technology becomes more advanced, you will at some point need support to deal with an urgent issue or make an improvement.
When it comes to web hosting, it is vital that you choose a host that provides 24/7 technical support. This way, should anything go drastically wrong, you have the peace of mind of knowing there is a qualified expert available there and then to help you fix the problem. What’s more, as you begin to deploy more advanced technology, technical support can help you make the right choices for your business objectives.
6. Easy to use control panels
As a business, you’ll want to focus on providing your professional services, not wasting hours trying to figure out how to manage and make changes to your website. The key to this is to have a website control panel that makes managing your site easy. What’s more, they provide an unparalleled range of tools so that you can do more from a single interface.
7. Professional email address
Email has become the standard way for businesses to communicate with customers. For professional service companies that need to maintain a respected identity, an email address that contains the name of your business domain (e.g. @mycompany.com) delivers the professional impact and gives your communications increased legitimacy.
Make sure your service provider offers domain-based email addresses and that their email service has all the features you need. This includes the ability to integrate email with platforms like Outlook and which provides spam and malware scanning and blacklist checking. You’ll also need enough email addresses for all employees, adequate storage and features such as file sharing, calendars and tasks.
Good web hosting ensures that professional service businesses establish and maintain a professional online presence. If you are looking to begin your online presence or are wishing to upgrade to a better hosting solution, hopefully, the points raised here will help you find the right web host and hosting package.
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