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Web Marketing: How to Inspire Action with the Horizontal Navigation Bar

For increasing leads and sales for marketing your business, proper use of the top horizontal navigation bar on your website (the links or buttons you see going across the top) is critical. The top navigation area serves one purpose — to get a visitor to go to another page.

Part of the trick is knowing what obvious utilities or content should be featured. The other is how to graphically produce the links to lead your visitors to those important sections. Determining what people expect can be discovered by

  • Reviewing competing websites: Visit some of the websites you are in competition with. Run a heat map test on them to see where their visitors are looking.

  • Participating in forums: Search for a forum (otherwise known as a discussion board) focused on discussions with people in your industry. Pay attention to the forum categories and topics that participants are talking about. These could become specific titles for your main navigation.

  • Knowing your target audience: Find people in your own network who fit your target audience and ask them what they would expect to see when arriving at your website.

Many visitors know exactly what they’re looking for, and you want to provide that information immediately. Here are a few additional rules you’ll find useful when creating a horizontal navigation bar for a website:

  • Location: Websites usually have a banner at the top of the page featuring a logo on the left and then some other graphics in the middle and right.

    Place horizontal navigation directly under the banner so a visitor can first focus on the upper-right quadrant of the page and then scan across the graphics to give him confidence that he’s at a website worth investigating further. Then allow him to naturally move down to where the horizontal navigation bar catches his eye.

  • Type: Navigation bars include either buttons or text links. Sometimes when you roll your mouse over a navigation link, a menu of options unfolds. These are called menu trees, which contain either text links or buttons. Which is better is more of a personal preference.

    What is important is that your text or buttons are easy to view and identify. Do that much and you’ll get the click. And, again, that’s the only goal of your navigation bar — to get the click.

  • Number: People like odd numbers. So, keep three, five, or seven items on your horizontal navigation bar. In fact, limit the number to seven to avoid a cluttered navigation bar.

  • Order: When you have a strong URQ that draws the eye of your visitor to the upper-right part of your page first, the next natural place the visitor will look is from right to left across your top navigation buttons. What feature would you like your visitors to see first on that nav bar? Here are some options for your navigation bar:

    • Home: Give your visitors an easy way of navigating back to your homepage.

    • Contact info: If you want your visitors to contact you, include a Contact button.

    • About Me: Most visitors are going to want to know more about you before buying something from you.

    • Blog: Blogs have become expected.

    What else goes into your navigation bar depends on your business. Here is an example of a typical top navigation bar:

    Car sales: Home | About | Buy a Car | Sell a Car | Service | Blog | Contact
  • Words: The top navigation bar should be designed to get people to actually do something. People like to do things online. They like to search, view, register, find, review, subscribe, add, get, contact, evaluate, demo, download, play, go to, and discover things, for example. Use the words in your top nav bar to get people engaged with your website — to get them to do something.

    Consider using the following navigation bar:

    Search Products | View Events Schedule | Subscribe Now

    instead of this one:

    Products | Events | Newsletter
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