Website navigation is crucial to user experience. Choosing top-level menu items based on a combination of content hierarchy, page traffic volume, and selling intent can seem daunting. Narrowing down the number of top-level menu items is very difficult.
Sub-menus are another story altogether. One thing that I’ve learned from user tests is that if a product isn’t addressed directly in sub-level options, the user might not even click on the upper-level menu option. While search bars are great for finding hard-to-categorize items, they’re only as effective as people’s vocabularies and spelling, and products don’t always include the right search terms in their descriptions.
The Nielsen Norman Group claims that deep navigation is more difficult to use than flat navigation. That is, the fewer levels that you have to dive down into, the better. The structuring strategy on the left will provide greater ease of use.
However, there are no hard and fast rules for when to cut off one category to begin another, and we’re left to perform user tests like card sorting to get ideas. We can measure analytics only after making changes. I’m wondering if one day soon an AI-powered tool could suggest optimal website navigation structuring for me.
Existing page volume also plays a role. Looking at traffic numbers make it obvious when top pages with little volume should be demoted. If it’s not appealing for people to click to that page, chances are it’s distracting them from finding the money-making pages.
And speaking of money-making pages, moving a top-selling product category to the top-level navigation is a strategy employed by some successful ecommerce sites like Wayfair. Even if they could fit nicely into other sub-categories, extra sales could make the content promotion worthwhile.
The more variety in products, the harder they are to categorize neatly. Possible grouping based on many different characteristics might complicate decision-making. It’s important to keep buyer intent in mind and prioritize the money-makers.