The ideal navigation is both simple in design and concept: it provides users with a high-level understanding of what content exists on the site and how they can interact with the brand.
The navigation of your site should focus on primary conversion paths. When you understand the reasons why people are coming to your site, you can address their immediate need and begin the process of guiding them through the funnel. Miss that first part and it’s over.
Navigation improvements are about guiding users on the path we want them to take—usually the path of least resistance to conversion. If you are going to make improvements, then you have to understand your users (what they want) and their behaviors (what they do).
Start with your Analytics
Looking at analytics reveals paths people are currently taking and where they are running into a problem. Those problems along the path to conversion are what make people bounce and go elsewhere.
Our client Draper felt like their site could generate more leads with an enhanced design. They knew they needed to make a change to their existing setup, but the question was what needed to change to help people along their journey?
We analyzed their traffic in Google Analytics and found that 91% of traffic dropped from the homepage. You read that right—9 out of 10 people bounced after viewing the homepage. Now, there was no question where we needed to focus.
Luckily, we had the existing infrastructure in place to generate data that would back up our design decisions. Analytics should be built on how your site supports your business goals. Once you clearly understand the purpose of your site, it’s much easier to accurately map out the supporting metrics you should track.
If you want to improve your analytics to measure navigation related changes, start with event tracking. You can place event tracking on nav labels to understand how people engage with your navigation on different parts of the site. What do they do on the homepage? What about when they are two levels deep into your site?
Once you have relevant metrics in place, the way to determine what the data is telling you is context. The best context: understanding your audience.
Take Time to Understand your Audience
Knowing your audience helps you understand what paths they may be looking to take. You will never waste time or money when investing in truly understanding your customers and how they want to engage with your brand.
"There are many ways to center a business. You can be competitor focused, you can be product focused, you can be technology focused, you can be business model focused, and there are more. But in my view, obsessive customer focus is by far the most protective of Day 1 vitality."
Analytics shows key user behavior but other sources can be much more effective to understand their problems, feelings, pressures, triggers, background, and more. A couple of ideas:
Speak with other internal teams who are on the front line of dealing with end users (sales, customer service, etc.). These teams often have the most compelling insight because it’s easier to build empathy when you hear of real stories rather than through data.
Conduct a user survey. It’s okay to have a small number of users in the survey if you’re looking for qualitative information. When you put faces and names to your data, it’s easier to optimize for Natalie rather than 30% of a segment.
Understanding your audience starts with you and your team.
Who do you want to target? Why?
What do you want people to do on your site?
How do you want people to engage with your brand offline?
When you have the answers to those questions, you have expectations and hypotheses. That’s when you can go back to your analytics to answer these questions:
What people are you reaching today?
How are people finding your site and brand?
How are people navigating your site?
How are people engaging with your content?
Navigation improvements can have big results
Going back to our work on Draper, we increased pageviews to their most important content by 108% with one of the main changes being a simplified, user-focused navigation. Now, Draper doesn’t have to worry IF people are reading their content but how to improve that content.
If you have a hunch that your navigation isn’t up to par or want to test further optimization, start with your analytics and audience. Get data by implementing event tracking and/or a heatmapping tool to understand where people are clicking. Combine that with context of your audience so you’re optimizing for their problems which is always the most effective way to improve engagement.
Putting these parts together help make educated guesses that you can test and iterate. Any solid strategy is a continuous feedback loop where you will learn through success or failure. The point is that it’s ongoing and until you start your first lap, you’re going to be stuck right where you are.