Make Your Site's Navigation Options Highly Visible 
by Jamie Kiley

Effective navigation stands out. It's clear, obvious, and highly

You'll need to have a clear section of the page designated for
navigation--one that a visitor will immediately recognize as the
navigation area when he arrives at the site. Navigation should
not necessarily be the prime focus, but it must be highly

On many sites, the main navigation is overly subdued. It sort of
"lurks" on the page, but it's not the kind of thing that really
gets to a visitor's consciousness. It gets drowned out because
there is too much color or excitement in the rest of the page.

Occasionally, this is ok. You may have some navigation options,
such as a privacy policy, that need to be available, but don't
need to be emphasized.

However, aside from those few exceptions, you'll want your
navigation to be used. So it will need a voice loud enough to be
heard above the excitement of the rest of the site.

Here are 4 tips to make sure your navigation stands out:

1. Put It In A Prime Spot

It's all about positioning. Give your main navigation good
placement at the top, or left, of the page.

When visitors arrive at a page, they scan in an orderly pattern
from left to right, starting in the top left corner and working
down the page. So if your navigation is at the top or on the
left, it's going to be seen fairly quickly. Also, this is where
visitors expect to find navigation, so they'll be primed to
notice it there.

2. Use Color

Besides size, color is the best way to get something noticed on 
a page. You can use color very powerfully in drawing out your

A very common technique is to place navigation options on a
colored field, on a horizontal bar or a sidebar. This is
effective because it creates a strong contrast with other
elements on the page.

Just remember, the brightest, most vivid, most saturated colors
will stand out the most. You don't necessarily need to use a
strong color for your navigation, but you do need to look at how
your navigation color mixes with the rest of the page.

If you have a very bright site, pale colors in your navigation
won't cut it. But if the site is fairly subdued, even a hint of
color to draw out your navigation will be plenty of contrast.

3. Give It Space

If your navigation has a lot of clutter around it, it stands a
smaller chance of getting noticed. In a busy situation, people 
do not notice detail. It's very hard for them to pick out 
specific items. Think about the difficulty of trying to find 
somebody in a crowded room.

Visitors will pick out the elements of your page that have the
most breathing room. So be sure to leave plenty of space around
your navigation. Don't let other elements--especially other
text--get so close that the navigation is crowded out.

4. Separate It From Ads

If want your navigation to be noticed, keep it away from ads.

People on the web are highly suceptible to "banner blindness".
That's a real condition in which people ignore anything that is
associated with an ad. Since most people are not fond of ads 
they try to avoid them. So keep ads and navigation physically
separated. Don't let them get mixed together.

Two key pointers: never put navigation above the logo. Since
banners are frequently located in the center of the top of the
page, that's a prime spot to be ignored.

Also, if you have a blank, empty white space between your logo
and something on the right side of the page, be very careful
about filling it with navigation. It will be confused with
banners simply because of guilt by association.

In addition to physically separating ads and navigation, you
should make sure that your navigation doesn't LOOK like an ad.
Square or rectangular buttons and images at the top and sides of
the page are especially problematic.

For example, take a look at Notice that
the member login button is not very obvious as navigation. It has
an ad-like appearance and it's in an area of the page where
visitors would expect to see an ad.

Critically evaluate all of your buttons and images to make sure
they won't be mixed up with ads. Don't leave any confusion in a
visitor's mind about where ads stop and navigation begins.

Position, color, space, and separation from ads. There you have
it--four tips for making your navigation stand out.

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: