There are lots of views of best practices for page navigation in your site design. But there should be two main aims of getting your page navigation correct – allowing visitors to find their way quickly and simply about the web site and allowing the search engines to find all relevant pages of your web site.

If you just have a small web site, half a dozen pages or so, then it is quite simple to display links to all of your pages on every page. But even then, there are mistakes that people can make so do read on!

Keep the main navigation constant
And the first of these is changing the navigation layout on every page. If the navigation structure changes on every page it can be very distracting to the visitors. For instance, dropping the present page from the list of links might alter the layout of the links across the screen and if a reader is working left to right through the links that can cause them to get lost.

Do not hide in text links
Links in text are also open to major problems. I have seen web sites in which these links are in exactly the same font, text decoration and size as the rest of the text. This is a pity as visitors on the web site will not realise that they can click a link for further information unless by several fluke they happen to drop the mouse over the hidden link.

Always have text links
I am not saying that all links must be text links, but if you are using flash, javascript or image links then at the footer of the page add text link equivalents to the pages that you are linking to. This makes sure that visitors using browsers that might not read these technologies, for example disabled and basic mobile browsers, still have the option for the links as do search engines.

Give a link back home
Quite often someone finding a page on your website will want to go to your home page before continuing through the website, or another visitor might be deep into the site and want to get to your home page. So make certain that this link is clear and simple to find.

Leave breadcrumbs
If you have a web site of only several pages then possibly not needed, but if visitors can click down through some levels of pages then telling them where they are is a must. The breadcrumbs would usually provide another link to the home page and the pages above the present page. Such as, on an ecommerce website they may collection home page, category page, sub category page and then display the present page name for confirmation.

Written by Keith Lunt, who offers a Merseyside web design service. For more useful tips, call into the web design blog.

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