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Top 5 Website Menu Problems

Creating website menus and structures to your web pages is an increasingly important factor when planning out your website as Google and other search engines start to increasingly us Artificial Intelligence to rank and position websites in searches.

Gone are the days of the never ending vertical menu sitting to the left of your website and welcome to the ever complex world of web navigation - but beware! It is fraught with pitfalls and errors not just from a user standpoint but also from a technical aspect.

Top 5 web menu faux pas

  1. Width and device restrictions
    This is a common issue these days - the number of smart devices your website will show on is growing and your menu structure needs to reflect this. Many websites have an increasingly top heavy content meaning the site owners try to cram every web page into the top level menu. This is usually because they never take into account the actual width of other peoples device. They happily assume all users are on the same screen resolution then themselves which means what they see is what the visitor sees but not so! At the time of going to press there are about 11 desktop screen resolutions to choose from of which you are looking at this on 1 and that doesn't account for aspect ratio or other devices other than a desktop PC.
  2. The mystery meat menu
    Many years ago the MMM was all the rage. In essence the budding web designer designed each page individually including the menu often leaving or adding items into one page menu that didn't appear on another leaving the user confused as to where they were or wanted to get to. These days with dynamic menus, database driven websites and enhanced use of coded pages it's a little easier but you can still confuse visitors by a shabby structure. One of the biggest NO's is popping pages outside of their natural habitat. For example if you create a page called "About us" then add next to it a page called "Who we are" which one does the visitor want to see? This happens a lot! If you confuse a visitor, you confuse Google and hence your pages plummet out of the search engines as a result. The damage a poorly thought out menu can do is rather scary!
  3. No logical structure
    Your menu is a schematic of your business. It must follow a logical order and where you position your pages is extremely important not only to the visitor but also to search engines because they will append ranking based on where you think that page is in the importance of the website itself. For example if your menu follows this "Page one", "Page two", "Page three" then "Page one" is more important than "Page three" but if you reverse the structure then "Page three" ranks above "Page one" you dig? Why is that important? Consider "Page one" as the product you want to sell and "Page three" as the terms & conditions of selling it. Google delivers searches for your product and because "Page three" is considered by you to be above "Page one" then the visitor lands on your terms & conditions page and you don't sell your product.
  4. Third click home
    This is very important. If your menu takes your visitor on a magical mystery tour and delivers them deep within the bowels of your website where upon they need to back step 300 clicks to get where they last were you not only lose the customer but also the ranking as in general most search engines use a third click home methodology to navigate sites. More than 2 clicks to find the page generally search engine robots loose interest and your lower tier pages simply vanish. Consider a website selling cars: a good structure would be "Ford" => "Escort" => "1.3 Ghia" but a bad structure would be "Ford" => "Escort" => "Blue" => "Rubber wheels" => "1.3 Ghia". In essence Google would not bother ranking "1.3 Ghia" on account of it's so far down the linking structure.
  5. Too much magic
    Don't confuse the viewer by trying to be swish and over code or complex your menus! Most WYSIWYG web editors like Wordpress allow the use of menu plug ins and some on offer look truly breathtaking but let's face it - visitors to websites want information not to see how flash you can be. Annoy a visitor - lose a customer! Perhaps the biggest crime is over use of JavaScript. JS Is a fantastic tool to enhance your menu NOT create it. Menus powered by all JavaScript cannot be seen by search engine robots so if you are lured by the glittery plugin you need to be sure to provide a menu structure that spiders can see and the best way to do it is in your browser is to switch off JavaScript. If you cannot navigate the site - neither can Google.

The moral of our story is PLAN your website architecture from a visitor perspective keeping important stuff at the top.

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