by anthony on 09/29/11 at 7:40 am
Before you spend hours debating with your colleagues and clients on how your navigation menu should look, there’s something you should know. Users spend more time with content links than they do with navigation menus.
In fact, some users don’t even look at menus. What users look at is page content. That’s where they often go to navigate. One firm has experienced this with users in their eyetracking research.
One of the reasons users use content links more than menus is because they’re more engaging and can take users on a journey of what they’re interested in. As users view page content, they can click on links they find interesting.
This takes them to another page of content with links that leads to another page of content with more links and so forth. Before they know it, they’ll have consumed many pages of content through the clicking of content links.
Menus don’t have this engaging effect. They’re a boring list of links on the sides of the page that users only use when they’re already familiar with the site and know what they want. Menus are handy and your site should have one, but they can’t engage users on a level that content navigation links can.
This is because menus don’t come with content. They’re ambiguous labels that have little meaning to users who visit your site for the first time. First-time visitors aren’t looking at your menus to navigate. They’re looking at your content to navigate, which is why you should focus more effort on designing landing pages than menus.
The landing page is where the user’s journey begins. Most designers obsess over the details of their menus because they assume that most users will use the menus to navigate. However, the truth is that most users will use content links to navigate.
While it’s important to have a usable menu, an engaging landing page matters more. If you aren’t seeing many page views, you should worry less about your menus and focus more on improving your landing pages and content links. That’s where users spend most of their time. And if you design that well, that’s where you’ll get a lot of your conversions.