Even the most attractively designed website in the world couldn't lure people into browsing and buying if those people can't find their way around the site's products or content. Poorly organized sites can make website visitors feel like they're lost in a complicated maze with no clear path to the end. When your visitors come to a website dead end, they may choose that moment to abandon your site and go somewhere else. In addition to costing you customers, a website with poorly designed navigation can also hurt your brand's reputation.

Thoughtfully designed and streamlined site navigation is key to showcasing your site's content, delivering a fruitful experience to your customers, and preserving your brand's credibility. Fortunately, it's relatively easy to improve your site's navigation with some simple changes and enhancements that won't require you to hire an IT team.

Here are some ideas to get you started.

Navigation Design

Let visitors choose how they navigate

Different people want to navigate in different ways, so give them several choices for how they can navigate around content or products. For instance, you can offer navigation choices relating to categories, brands, types of content (e.g., news, blogs), and age ranges/gender for products.

Offer refinements

Refinements allow visitors to narrow their search as they travel through your site. Category pages are usually broad. For example, visitors can search "birthday" or "holiday" on a children's party supplies site. However, you can allow visitors to choose from more specific product subcategories, such as "pirate," "princess party," or "Halloween party" to help them get to their desired content or products faster. On the other hand, don't offer too many refinement options. Visitors may become overwhelmed by all the choices and abandon your site.

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Shaun Ryan is CEO of SLI Systems, a provider of hosted search solutions. He can be reached via shaun.ryan@sli-systems.com.