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Find me if you can...are your navigation labels confusing?

UX Success. Find me if you can...are your navigation labels confusing?
By Aline Lin   |   April 22, 2021

We’ve all felt the frustration of not being able to find what we are looking for on a website. Are the people who visit your organization’s site having the same problem, too?

One of the most common issues we have found from usability testing is with the labeling of the navigation bar. Over the past twenty years, we have seen websites transition from being informational brochure websites to powerful, action-driven marketing tools. Consequently, what used to be straightforward navigation labels (i.e. Education, News and Events, Contact Us) became active verbs, such as “Connect” or “Learn.” The thought was that creative active verbs would engage visitors more and motivate them to click.

However, the truth is quite the opposite. While these verbs are good for marketing, they tend to be too vague for navigation because there are many ways to interpret the same verb. What does “connect” mean? For many organizations it could mean a webinar, conference, or newsletter. But in reality, most users associate the word “connect” with social media. With the increasing recognition of the importance of the user experience, usability testing can offer insight into the “why” behind users’ actions. We have found that guiding our clients to use more conventional terms for navigation has improved the findability of information on their websites. A better user experience ultimately leads to the perception of a more trusted brand.

Usability testing offers objective information and insights for a more strategic solution and leads to measurable results. For example, the average wrong clicks on a client’s site decreased from five to zero and the ability to find information increased from 50% to 100%.

We understand the need to drive people to content and the desire to be creative. There are many other other ways you can be creative that don’t compromise the navigation. The goal is to get to the information quickly, not to relearn ways of finding it. Think of your navigation as a map: if all maps didn’t follow standard naming conventions, such as north, south, east, west, or use consistent icons for highways versus railroad tracks, imagine how lost and confused you would be. Keeping your website simple and straightforward with navigation labeling will help drive people to the engaging content you want them to read.

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