How to Create a More Functional Website Navigation Architecture

The navigation or sitemap is critical to the usability of your website. For both visitors and search engines, a functional architecture will help your website succeed online.

Unfortunately for many websites, a strong website navigation is a missed opportunity due to ignorance and sometimes laziness. However, your navigational architecture is something that can be easily fixed. So why not now?

Not sure whether your architecture is strong enough? Here’s how to get started.

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Watch someone else on your website

Ask a friend, family member, or – even better – potential customer to get on your website and look around. Watch how they navigate from page to page. Do they rely on the top navigation? Side navigation? Links throughout the page?

It’s important to keep all of these navigational links in mind; it’s likely more than just that one person navigates in the same way, just as many people navigate very differently. So try to do this with multiple people, if possible.

Review your Analytics

We talk about the value of Analytics a lot; and this case is no different. There are additional areas where Google Analytics can help identify areas for improvement with your navigation structure, but these are just a few.

Check your most popular pages

Start by going to your Google Analytics under Behavior > Site Content > All Pages. There, you’ll find a list – by visits – of your most popular pages. Pay special attention to how the popularity falls. Ideally, you should see your top level pages (think: Homepage, Services, About, Contact) first, followed by any secondary or secondary level pages, followed by tertiary or third level pages.

If a third level page is showing more visits than a top level page, you may decide that it needs even more visibility. Obviously, it’s important to your visitors.

Check your top exit pages

Another great area in Analytics under Behavior > Site Content > Exit Pages, you’ll find your top exit pages – or where visitors most often leave your site from.

Here, you want to keep an eye out for a flow that’s unlike the popular pages section. Your popular pages and exit pages should be similar because your most popular pages will also be the pages proportionally showing the highest exits.

Pay attention to any pages lower on your popular pages list showing up high on the exit pages list. This may mean that there isn’t a good navigational structure once visitors get to that particular page. In other words, they don’t know what to do or where to go. (Content may also be an issue here, as well.)

Behavior Flow

Last, but certainly not least, is the behavior flow chart (Behavior > Behavior Flow) in Analytics.

Here, you can define a specific landing page (try starting with your homepage) and then watch how visitors navigate through your site. Where do they go and what do they do?

If in general most people tend to follow a path that is not intended, you may want to think about reconfiguring your navigation.

Call out pages

Are there any pages you specifically want to showcase? Perhaps it’s a Login page or a Shop page. Are there any pages with information customers call in to ask for because they have difficulty finding them on the website? Maybe that’s your Directions page.

These types of pages may need special “call-out” attention – whether it’s a button at the top of your website or a box in the sidebar, experiment with what works best. As always, follow up by using your Google Analytics statistics to see what kind of conversions this helped you get!

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