7 Tips About Navigation in UX Design

Navigation — any action that takes a user to a new part of the interface. Or which requires him to locate objects tools or data.

1. Principles Of Good Navigation Design

We have a particular discipline that called “Navigation design”. Good Navigation design provides with the next 3 things:

  1. Provide users with a means for getting from one point to another on the site.
  2. Must communicate the relationship between the elements it contains.
  3. Must communicate the relationship between its contents. And the page the user is currently viewing. Which of the available choices might best support the task or goal users are pursuing.

Users make little maps in their heads when they visit websites. Or when they use application, just as they do in supermarkets, libraries, etc. Thus, we need to create a simple user experience for them. Since, people tend to map and remember information that they understand. In a case when it’s difficult for them they don’t understand your structure quite well. And they can’t navigate properly.

2. Levels Of Navigation

We have several types of navigation for different levels of interaction with interface:

Global navigation — anywhere you might want to go, you can get there eventually. This is work in case of global menu areas where you can go on a different section of website or application.

Supplementary navigation — provides shortcuts to related content. For instance, to open similar articles or pages with similar goods if we are developing an eCommerce solution.

Contextual navigation (inline navigation) — embedded in the content of the page itself. This type of navigation that we use right in the content. You can see a good use of it on Wikipedia website. They have a strong Information architecture by using this type of navigation. But it does not work for any kind of content and websites. Since, we should take into account our goals and goals of our users.

Courtesy navigation — provides access to items that users don’t need on a regular basis (on feedback forms, privacy & policy etc).

3. Start Screen

A lot of start screens on websites and mobile apps don’t perform their functions. People use it as a marketplace. They place there different banners, biography, or even information about their business and company. But it’s useless information when a user starts your website or application first time. Also, we should take into account how people open specifically start page of our website.

In an ideal case, start screen should be a list of topics with links relevant pages. Much like the index on the back of a book if we talk about websites.

In the case of applications, we can even avoid start screens. And load dashboard or sign in / sign up dialog if a user isn’t authorised in the system before.

For the first time users, we can start with the guide to an application if it’s necessary to educate them.

4. Types Of Navigation

Navigation among multiple screens, views, or pages — perhaps the most disorienting kind of navigation for users. It involves a gross shifting of attention that disrupts a user’s flow and forces him into a new context. Users can get lost in the interface and experience navigational trauma. Imagine that by clicking in navigation area you change the room in which you located. That’s how our brain reacts on this kind of navigation. We need to use this type of navigation properly.

Navigation between panes — can solve many navigation problems by reducing the navigation to almost zero. But putting parts of a single facility onto separate panes increase excise. And decreases users’ understanding and orientation. Imagine folder with several files. You can take one file and place it on the top of others. In the same time, you can see that you have other files under current file that on the top now. It’s a good metaphor. Using panes near to physical world experience.

The use of tabbed screen areas is a space-saving mechanism and is sometimes necessary. Tabbed panes can be appropriate where there are multiple supporting panes for a primary work area that are not a user at the same time.

Also, we can have navigation in a content area for scrolling the content in specific areas and jumping from on part to another. And we can zoom parts of content as well. For instance, if we want to view a bigger photo to explore more details there. All these actions can be grouped in so-called type Navigation of information.

5. Improving Navigation

Reduce the number of places to go:

  • Keep the number of windows and views to a minimum;
  • Keep dialogs to a minimum;
  • Apps/websites with dozens of distinct types of pages, screens, or forms are difficult to navigate;
  • Keep the number of panes to the minimum number needed for users to achieve their goals.
  • On web pages, anything more than two navigation areas and one content area begins to get busy;
  • Keep the number of controls limited. Show only what is important to reach a goal.


Provide signposts

Signposts — points of reference.

  • Persistent (consistent) objects help orient users;
  • Making each page just like every other one may appeal to marketing, but it can be disorienting. Common elements should be consistent on each page, but by making different rooms look distinct, you will help to orient your users better.


Provide overviews

They help to rent users within the content.

  • Images (graphics);
  • Breadcrumbs.


Provide appropriate mapping of controls to functions

I have this kind of stove in my apartment and during the year. I often had difficulties in navigation if I needed to turn on several burners at a time.

Users must figure out the mapping anew each time they use the stovetop. It’s not obvious that second knob from the left side should turn on the central bottom burner. It’s because of the poor physical mapping of controls. Of course, I have small pictograms that should guide me, but they are so small and often I just don’t have time to learn them again and again. I just make the first shot and if it’s wrong I try again until I’ll reach my goal.

In this case, we have a physical mapping problem.

Take a look at the next example. Where I tried to solve this problem of poor physical mapping.

On this stovetop, it’s clear which knob maps to which burner. Because the partial arrangement of knobs clearly associates each knob a burner.

Inflect your interface to match user needs

Inflecting — means organizing to minimise typical navigation. Placing the most frequent desired functions and controls in the most immediate convenient locations for users to access them. In the same time pushing the less frequent used functions deeper into the interface, where users won’t stumble over them.

6. Correct Organization

Controls and displays should be organised in an interface according to 3 attributes:

  • Frequency of use;
  • Degree of dislocation;
  • Degree of risk exposure.

This priority list make navigation process smooth. People understand it correctly in many cases of use.

7. Avoid Hierarchies

The solution is to render the structure as a user imagines it — as monocline grouping. But to provide the search and access tools that only a deeply hierarchical organization can offer. In other words, rather than forcing users to navigate deep, complex tree structures, give them tools to bring appropriate information to them.

To avoid complex navigation mechanism we can use shortcuts and simple methods of navigation. Such as links on related content. Block with links on favourites sections or most popular sections.

Also, we can use hashtags or similar instruments if it works for your project and help to achieve user goals.

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