The Secrets of Effective Navigation or How to Hook Customers to our Website

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Do you still have that punch in the guts every time a new visitor drops into your online store but leaves immediately afterwards? Most of us do. Bounce rate is one of the key metrics ecommerce websites should track. Experts claim we better keep it below 45%.

Good bounce rates usually depend on many factors but effective website navigation needs to be considered in its own right. Since it is key for grabbing customer’s attention, it is also key to examine. 

Yet, how do we ensure that the way our online store navigates hooks (as opposed to confuses) our customers? Naturally, it also relates to if our customer is going to convert.

This is exactly what we are focusing on today in our discussion on effective website navigation. We will see the way best practices work by example, after which we will turn to some specific navigation elements such as breadcrumbs, mega menus and footers. 

Ready to get started? If you still doubt the importance of bounce metrics for your overall success, do scroll through some further pieces of advice such as this one

4 Best Practices for Effective Navigation to Always Remember 

First and foremost, the navigation of your online store should be as simple and clear as possible. Also, it should immediately respond to your customers’ expectations and meet their needs. 

Effective website navigation successfully supports customers in their search for products and facilitates conversion. It prevents any chance of quitting due to confusion or other obstructions. It is also able to attain this in seconds.

As a starter, take a look at the way the successful ecommerce store of Zara does it.


Now, let us see what best practices are out there to help us do better and more.

1. Your language should be as clear as a bell

The proper selection of your navigation words is paramount to your success. Your words should be simple, clear and meaningful. No matter that being creative may be tempting, you better keep this to other text fields. 

2. Your top-level items should be clickable/tappable

You must avoid empty clicks/taps on your menu bar. That is why make sure that all your top-level items contain active links and are clickable. Prevent customer confusion and add value as much as you can.

3. You should take care of the distinct display

Time is crucial for your customer’s decision to stay on your online store, and their opinion is shaped in milliseconds. That is why place a clear indication of any drop-down menus to indicate that there is more to follow. As a rule, make sure that your visitor loses no time in hovering as this may be frustrating. 

4. Your navigation should occupy a regular position

Make sure that your visitor may locate your navigation at a spot where he expects it to be. Some further eye-tracking research may help you highlight the importance of your upper left field, for example. 

Let us now look deeper at a case by Grind Web Studio to address navigation challenges.

Source: Payhawk

In the example above you may easily notice:

  • all navigation items are described in a word, which is self-contained and also clickable; 
  • there is an arrow indicator next to “Features” leading to a drop-down menu;
  • the strong upper left corner of the page is occupied by the brand logo and a picture of the key brand product just underneath;

Sticking to this set of golden rules will save you a lot of trouble. Still, you can always go a step further in researching best practice on your own. Possibly, you could also utilize some other navigation items such as a “search” or “benefits” bar, autocomplete function, useful content, etc.

Should you need more tips, try some of these.

What are Breadcrumbs and How to Use Them

We have always loved the origin of the “breadcrumbs” concept. It is associated with the fairy tale of Hensel and Gretel who dropped crumbs of bread to mark their way through the forest.

Logically, in web design, this is a term that indicates a user’s location on a website. 

Either way, when discussing navigation, breadcrumbs deserve special attention. They are usually included just under the main navigation. Some of their benefits are: 

  • they help customers locate their exact position in the online store; 
  • they prevent searching from the main menu and through the “back” function; 
  • they support your overall site structure and may be used in search results.

We are a strong supporter of breadcrumbs and this is the way we use them in our customer projects: 

Source: BioTrade

As a whole, it is recommended to include breadcrumbs for better navigation. This may be done both by a plug-in (e.g. for WooCommerce), and a custom code.

Is a Mega Menu Unavoidably a Good Choice?

Well, in a word – not necessarily. By all means, it depends on your online store purpose, product range and customer needs. Yet, this may be a particularly effective tool for improving navigation. Its biggest advantage lies in its immediate offering of a list of choices. 

Mega menus are usually chosen by large vendors with extensive product ranges. If you decide to apply a mega menu, you have to carefully identify your parent categories, subcategories and hierarchies. Otherwise, it may have just the opposite effect and lead to customer confusion.

Source: eBay

How to Apply the Footer for a Better Effect

As WooCommerce experts recommend, the Footer should be an integral part of your overall website strategy. It could be both a “catch-all” tool and a valuable space which contains business-specific information.

The reason why? It is at least twofold. On the one hand, the footer appears on every single webpage of your site. Second, your user already has a preliminary set of expectations on what it could contain. Finally, it typically also offers links to all related policies of your business. 

Let us take a look at what a typical footer may contain. The example below is from our Tochici’s website, which was awarded as the Online Shop of the Year 2020

Key Take-Offs

Effective website navigation may become a key pillar in your conversion rate optimization strategy. It is an effective tool for winning customer’s attention, reducing bounce rate and boosting overall ecommerce performance. 

Effective website navigation should always consider the four principles of simple wording, clickable top layer, clear indications and regular positioning. Otherwise, it may also take advantage of other industry-specific best practices such as search bars, promotions, big menus or others. 

Do you already feel that your navigation needs a second screening? You are always welcome to consult us on any navigation-specific issues which may help you increase conversion.