If your website has traffic but isn’t seeing a lot of engagement, it’s likely that your navigation is too complicated. Sure, there are a lot of other factors at play as well, but a reader’s ability to arrive and quickly find the information they’re after is probably the most important thing in web design.

This may seem counter-intuitive with our earlier posts on how a website needs a certain critical mass of content in order to rank well. How do you have that much content without complicating the header navigation?

Decide the story you want to tell before you design everything. And if it’s too late for that, if the site is already together, it’s never too late to rethink the presentation.

What do you really do, at the core? Is it reflected in your web design?

Maybe you offer a dozen different services, and each of those has some caveats that deserve their own sub-pages as well.

But is all that central to what you do? To your specialty?

Here’s a good example.

Say you’re a quick lube service station. You might employ a team of mechanics that can repair brakes, transmissions, exhaust, etc. But if the bread and butter of your daily operation (the thing you are known for most) is fast oil changes, you could be confusing the issue with a massive navigation menu of a dozen ancillary services you offer in addition to oil changes.

For SEO reasons you want to include sub-pages for all those other services just in case a user is searching for “brake service”. But all of those pages can exist within the site for search engines to explore and index whether they’re touted in your primary navigation menu or not.

But a tighter navigation brings focus to your website, makes you look more organized, and clarifies the path of where you want your readers to end up.

Too many choices can be paralyzing to your readers.

Offering a lot of options is a tempting mistake. We want users to have choices, right? And if we present a wide variety of options it makes us look like a truly full-service business.

Yes… and no.

Ever been to a restaurant with a huge menu? Page after page of great looking meals, and suddenly you have no idea what you want to order? Maybe you came in thinking about a burger, but that chicken wrap looks great, too. And the gyro. Oooh, and the meatloaf. They all sound great — how to decide?

Decluttering your web design for better reader engagement

Notice that a lot of higher end restaurants offer a fairly simplified menu. It’s usually one page and covers some major areas, but it’s not overwhelming and makes it fairly easy to look it over and quickly decide upon a meal.

Think about the web marketing industry as an example.

Imagine you’re a visitor looking for SEO help and the website’s menu offered:

  • SEO coaching
  • SEO consulting
  • SEO reports and review
  • SEO checkup services
  • Bi-annual SEO site audit
  • SEO content writing
  • etc.

If you’re looking for help with your SEO you probably don’t know where to begin.

That’s why you’re looking for the experts to begin with. To see a list like that makes you feel like you suddenly need to know which one of those to even look at, which can make an already frustrating situation overwhelming.

It’s fine for a web design firm to indeed offer all of those solutions to their SEO clients, but many of those should probably be presented as needed. (See: SEO consulting)

If the user knows they need help ranking in general, give them a simple path to follow and address all the extras once you’re having an actual conversation. Present them as tools in your overall toolbox — the toolbox being SEO services.

In conclusion…

Web design trends seem to be headed toward simplicity. Quick menus with clear choices are more and more important on any type of device. If you have a large number of drop-down items, particularly drop-downs on multiple separate menu items, consider revising your presentation.

It may be challenging to come up with a new way to share all the content, but you may be surprised how quickly changes like this can stimulate new engagement on an otherwise stale site.