Unlike sailing ships or hiking through the wilderness, you can’t navigate a website by relying on the stars or a compass to guide you. No matter how good your sense of direction, without the proper visual cues, you can become hopelessly lost in even the smallest website.
Most people are too busy to take the time to decipher what they see on a website. These are the days of instant gratification. If the content and navigation aren’t immediately clear on your website your potential customers are off to the next website which is only two clicks away. Your online business doesn’t have the ‘since-we’re-here-we-might-as-well-look-around’ advantage.
You should be thinking about your website’s navigation even before you start preparing your content. Planning the way visitors will travel through your website is a huge help when it comes to categorizing and writing your content.
Remember why you are creating a website.
Design it from your customer’s point of view. What will they be looking for? How will they expect to find it? The closer you can match your website’s navigation to their expectations, the faster they’ll find what they’re looking for and the better your chance of converting casual browsers to paying customers.
My favourite book for navigation help is Steve Krug’s Don’t Make Me Think. It’s a nice quick read full of invaluable information.