Immutable Laws Of Effective Navigation - Part 1: Make It Readily Available
by Jamie Kiley

The first immutable law of effective navigation: It's gotta be
readily available.

Visitors should not have to hunt for your navigation or wonder
where to find it. If you've done your job right, it will be
right there when they are ready for it.

The struggle in creating good navigation is to figure out what
type of navigation the visitor is going to need, when he is
going to need it, and where the most effective placement will

Basically, you have to anticipate your visitors needs and have
a solution ready.

Here are four key areas where you can squeeze out the most

1. Global Navigation

Global navigation is a set of links to all the main areas of
your site that is available on every page of the site in the
same place. Global navigation is a must-have, because it gives
visitors ready access to the key areas on your site.

If you don't have this type of navigation, visitors tend to
get lost. They lose their ability to easily move around
between the main sections.

When you use global navigation, visitors develop a sense of
familiarity with your site because the site is consistent.
When they need to find something, they know right where to
look for it.

Global navigation should be across the top of the page or down
the left side, since these two places are where visitors will
look first.

Also, it's crucial that global navigation be in the first fold
of the page. This means it needs to be visible in the first
window the visitor sees before they scroll down. Since these
options represent the most crucial sections of your site, it's
imperative that visitors see them immediately. Never put your
main navigation below the fold.

2. Spotlighted Navigation

On many sites, there are a few navigation options that get the
spotlight in the center of the main page. The concept is
great--hook visitors with the key areas right up front.

However, many people completely miss the boat because they
focus on the wrong links. Frequently, they link to the company
history or the mission statement.

Wrong focus. Visitors don't care.

You have to concentrate on what's important to your reader and
what they want to see. What are the most important places
visitors are likely to go on your site? Which pages are really
crucial? Put those things front and center.

As with global navigation, all spotlighted links should also
be above the fold. This point might seem obvious, but I've
seen quite a few sites recently that almost hide the important
links. They are buried too far down in the site.

One site in particular placed the two most important links at
the bottom of the page, completely out of sight. Big mistake:
visitors just won't see them.

Although navigation usually shouldn't be the primary focus of
your page (that honor belongs to content), it should be given
a prime position.

3. Contextual Navigation

Contextual navigation refers to links that give more info
about something specific the visitor is trying to do.

On every page of your site, you'll have to anticipate the
questions a visitor is going to have. Figure out what kind of
additional information they might need. Then provide links to
that information at the precise place that they will have the

One good rule is that any time you refer to information on
another page of your site or on a third party's site, link
directly to that info. Don't make them hunt and peck trying to
find it for themselves. Make it readily available.

4. Bottom-of-the-Page Navigation

Whenever a visitor gets to the end of a page, they are left
hanging. They have finished whatever it is they were working
on, and now they need somewhere else to go.

This is a critical moment, because it is terribly easy for a
visitor to leave if you don't give them somewhere to go. It is
your responsibility to point them in the right direction.

Never, never, never leave visitors without suggestions at the
bottom of a page.

If possible, you should try to decide on 1-3 places that the
visitor is most likely to want to go next. Think about your
most important goals for them. Then guide them in that

Always make sure there is at least one link at the bottom of a

You must make it easy for visitors to do what you want them to
do. Always ask yourself...

Where are my visitors going to need a link and how can I make
that link really obvious to them?

There are 605.6 million people online. Can they find your
business? Jamie Kiley creates powerful and engaging websites that
make sure YOUR company gets noticed. Visit
for a free quote.

Get a quick, free web design tip every two weeks--sign up for
Jamie's newsletter: