When organisations want a user to do something they generally design that content large, bold and right out in front (a “call-to-action”). But when a user wants to do something, it’s often tossed aside on the side of the page in a boring list of links. Or even worse, we hide it behind a dropdown label, or that most generic “menu” icon.

Why? If we want to be user-focused and relevant, we should be emphasising the content users need.

Focus on next steps

In our last UX Series post on landing pages, we discussed that users generally enter our sites on an interior page (not the homepage). So they arrive in the general area they need to be.

The navigation that is most useful to them is going to include steps that take them further along the path of achieving their task. The main menu (or global menu) is not that useful to them, since it includes entry points to areas not at all related to their task - a step backwards.

So rather than carry around this bulky navigation on every page, we’ll minimise it and focus on navigation that gets the user where they need to go.

Put it on the page, not in a menu

Users look at page content for information they need to orient themselves and navigate, not menus. We’ve noticed this behaviour in our own user tests (see the heatmap below), and other studies have also confirmed it. Users first look at page content for navigation cues and skip menus.

This screenshot is the result of one of our eye-tracking tests, which show which parts of the page users look at when trying to complete a task. Notice that nearly no one looked at the main menu at the top. They went immediately to the page content.

So for every step in a user path, the next step should always be part of the main page content, where users are looking. And to make navigation even more relevant, we also put those links in the content that is related to them.

This screen snippet was taken from a wireframe concept for the “About the Commission” page. The blue links represent subnavigation, but you can see they are placed with their relevant content on the page.

Navigation links that take a user back a step, or horizontally in the same direction are moved to menus. They are accessible, but less relevant, so they don’t need to take up valuable real estate on the page.

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