Usability for Nerds/Web design/Navigation

Navigation is how the users find their way around on the Internet. If users can't find what they want on your website, you might as well have no website at all.

Help users finding your website


Guessing the domain name. Many users try go guess the domain name of a website. The first guess may be, www.companyname.countrycode, etc. You may register more than one domain name in order to cover everything that users may guess at, including common misspellings of your name. The URL should work both with and without the initial www.

The domain name should of course be easy to remember. A name containing a hyphen (-) is not the best, because users may forget the hyphen or put a dot instead.

Search engines. Make sure your website is easy to find with the most popular search engines. It is possible to control which pages on your website are found by the search engines and how they are described in the search result listing. It is also possible to add keywords that are visible to some search engines but not seen by the user. You may add such keywords to cover all synonyms for the topic of your website, including common misspellings. See the instructions for the most common search engines.

Be aware that users may arrive at any subpage in your system. Make sure that all sub-pages have a title that makes sense out of context and a link back to the main entry page.

Links from other sites. Other people are likely to make links from their sites to your site only if your site contains useful information. The higher the quality of the information on your site, the more incoming links you will get. Make sure your site has logical entry points that others can link to. A subpage within a frame cannot be linked to.

Be careful to avoid dead links. Whenever you reorganize your website and remove a page or change its filename, you may actually be breaking a link from some other site, or make somebody's bookmarks invalid. To minimize this problem, you have to put a redirection page where the old page was.

Help users find their way around on your website


Menus. All pages should have a menu. Make sure your menus or links look like menus or links. If your links just look like text or decoration, then users may never get the idea that they can click on them. By default, links are underlined and blue or purple: Blue for places that have not been visited, and purple for links to pages that the user has visited before. The more your design deviates from this standard, the more difficult it will be for users to navigate.

Menus should be structured in a logical way, and not too deeply nested. Users may never find a particular page if they can't guess which way to go to find it, or if they don't know that it's available.

Search facilities. A search facility can be very useful for a site that has many pages. But good search facilities are difficult to make. An effective way of testing your search facility is to log search misses. Looking at the logfile, you can see all the terms that users have searched for without success.

Filename navigation. Some users are using the URL field in their browser for navigation. Therefore, the directory structure and filenames should preferably be simple and structured in a consistent and logical way. For example, if the URL of this page is

then the user may try to navigate upwards in the hierarchy by trying any of these:

Each of these URL's should give a useful entry to its respective place in the hierarchy of topics. Filename navigation can be particularly useful for finding the nearest existing page when the user has followed a dead link.

Helpful error messages. Don't let your system write "HTTP Error 404" when a requested page is not found. Rather, you should show a helpful page with links to your index page and search facilities and possibly a list of options that resemble what the user has typed.

Help users finding their way out of your website


Some websites have no outgoing links. Such sites are called sticky, because they are trying to keep the user within their site. But users who can't find what they are looking for on your site and can't get help finding it elsewhere, are not happy users who want to come back another time. Instead, you may make links open on a new browser tab.

Accessibility · Avoid Frames