While all of your links may be important, you must sort and prioritize to come up with an effective navigation scheme.
Here’s what you should keep in mind:
1. Sort your links
Your links should be organized according to their relationship to each other. Any time you can find a way to divide your links into two or more categories, do so.
If you have more than 5 or 6 links, categorizing becomes very important. Try to find some natural groups. For example, suppose you sell widgets, and your site has this set of links:
About the company
Your major categories are:
When you separate the two sets of links according to those major categories, it becomes much easier to sort the available information.
The simple reason is that a choice between two items is less complex than a choice between 6 items. It’s the principle of dividing and conquering.
Take a look at the following site:
Notice the four main categories–Products, Resources, Support, and Purchase. These four categories help visitors narrow down at a glance which area they need to look in to find the info they want.
Imagine if all of those links were lumped into one long list. How much harder would it be to figure out where to go?
Often, you might not have clear-cut categories. For example, you may have three links that all go together in one category (such as “Products”), plus several more miscellaneous links. Even if the miscellaneous links don’t fit conveniently under one category name, you can still group your links. Put the three product links together, then all the miscellaneous links in a separate place.
2. Prioritize your links
Hopefully, you have some idea of what you want visitors to do on your site. Your site should be designed to drive a specific action–in other words, get visitors to do a specific thing.
Once you’ve decided what your primary goal is, your navigation should reflect it. The links that pertain most closely to your main goals should be emphasized the most. You need to guide the visitor in the direction you want him or her to go.
Prioritize. Ask yourself the question, “What is most important?” What do you really want to accomplish? (I’ll give you a hint: “About the company” should not be a top priority link.)
Here are several examples of sites that prioritize well:
On the home page, you’ll see three main links. These links are geared at attracting the company’s major types of customers. All other links on the page are much smaller.
On this page, it’s clear that the company wants visitors to click on one of their three product links: Publish, Search, or Promote. The site does a good job of getting attention and guiding the visitor in a specific direction.
Right from the beginning, it’s obvious that the company wants visitors to join one of their three clubs. All other links are relegated to the bottom of the page.
By carefully prioritizing, these sites are able to narrow down the choices and make it more likely that visitors will head in the direction they want them to go.