How to implement a navigation redesign on an e-commerce website
Analysis of the current navigation
Introduction to navigation analysis
The navigational structure of a the website is the fundamental that guides user traffic (conversion paths) and impacts the user experience (UX). This is why a detailed understanding of site traffic is crucial. Proper navigation analysis increases content accessibility, improves conversion rates and ensures better user engagement on the site.
Why does a navigation analysis matter?
Navigation is the first element a user encounters when visiting a website. It affects how easily and effectively visitors can find the information they are looking for. Improperly designed navigation can lead to frustration, resulting in higher page bounce rates.
Key steps in navigation analysis
1. Research user behavior
Analytical tools such as Google Analytics will help you understand which navigation elements are most frequently clicked on and which are skipped. You can also use heat maps to monitor mouse movements and user clicks. At this step, it is useful to use the right tools for competitive analysis. Reinventing the wheel is often wasted energy.
2. Usability testing
Conducting usability tests with real users gives an insight into how visitors use the navigation. This allows you to identify problems that may not be obvious during internal reviews.
3. Analysis of the navigational structure
Checking that the navigational structure is logical and intuitive is key. Attention should be paid to the depth of menus, the number of levels and the legibility of labels. The three-click rule is worth mentioning here. In large ecommerce sites, duplication of content is worth keeping in mind here. An extensive category structure is a serious risk of duplication and simply chaos.
Optimisation of navigation based on analysis
1. Simplify navigation
In general, less is more. If menu analysis reveals unnecessary or barely clickable elements, it is worth removing them or combining them with other sections.
2. Use clear labels
The user should know immediately what is in a section. Avoid technical language, jargon and complicated terms. Exceptionally, if your site presents content for a very narrow, highly specialised audience, then jargon perceived as specialised language can have a positive effect within EAT.
3. Optimise mobile navigation
Given the limited space on mobile device screens, navigation needs to be simple and effective. It is worth considering the use of a so-called 'hamburger menu'. Often principals lose the 'mobile friendly' aspect by working exclusively on desktop. Google analyses websites in a specific way, skipping mobile compatibility will result in a decrease in traffic, conversions. It is worth bearing this in mind
Planning the new navigation
Before starting to design the new navigation, it is important to identify the key steps in order to carry out the changes effectively and dynamically.
Define the goals of the site
The website has to make money/sell. I can't tell you how many times I've heard this. Splitting hairs is to my benefit here. I drill down, asking who is supposed to buy, what is supposed to buy, how the customer gets to the website. This is the step where such questions are very much in demand. The more precise the answers - the better.
Whether your website is a blog, a shop or a portfolio - in each case the menu will be different.
Target group research
Here, it is not only important to determine whether customers are men from Poland or women from France. Behind the definition of the so-called persona, there is also an understanding of user needs. Here, it is helpful to use surveys, heat maps, but also simply .... to analyse sales.
Creating a site map
Here I am skipping the XML document reported to Search Console. A site map, which is a graphical representation of a site's navigational structure, helps you to understand how the different sections connect to each other, and how deep a user has to 'step' into the structure to find the content they are looking for.
When planning your navigation, it is worth keeping the following aspects in mind:
- Keeping it simple. I repeat it endlessly - the best menus are simple and easy to understand. Avoid over-complicating things.
- Using clear labels. Keep menu content short, concise and descriptive.
During implementation, it is a good idea to create something like a navigation prototype, run tests on a selected group of real users.
Implementation of new navigation:
CMS integration - if your website uses a CMS, the new navigation must be consistent with that system. Correct integration will ensure easy content management
During implementation, it is crucial to keep SEO in mind. In short, correct URLs, titles, working internal linking, redirects to new addresses are important to start with. Ultimately, the new menu is a great opportunity to perform a site audit and seal the full optimisation.
In most cases, it is a good idea to write out the menu in the form of a table where the before and after versions of the changes are in two blocks. You can include a summary of the information - what needs to be done, who is responsible for realising the work, you can include a link to Trello. The whole thing is then clear and easy to read. When creating such a table, it is worth taking the time to re-examine the phrases. Often, the 'old' menu was created quite some time ago and search trends have already changed. A more accurate selection of phrases is related to further necessary work - e.g. ordering optimised content (for category descriptions), but it also translates into increased positions in the organic results and reduced costs for adverts. Concrete benefits that are achieved by the way, so to speak.
In practice, menu changes are best performed on a copy of the site, on a so-called virtual local machine or on a draft domain. Once the desired changes have been made, the finished page can be transferred to the current domain "on production" in the form of a backup restore, or by replacing a section of the database. In such a solution - we minimise the time on "open heart" operation time.
Testing the new site navigation
As digital marketing consultant I recommend testing in two ways. The first aspect is to analyse and check the correct implementation of the new navigation. Such tests includes an analysis of the creation of orphan pages,
- minimise the number of redirects to the new url, detect redirect loops
- detect overlooked duplicates detect drops in SERP position and enable dynamic action to be taken to remedy this.
Another way to test changes to a page is to
- analyse sales funnels and
- the overall performance of the conversion path,
- the product purchase process itself.
These two ways of testing a new menu ensure that losses in visibility, traffic and conversions themselves are minimised. They are certainly worth implementing periodically - especially the analysis of category SERP positions on the new URLs.
The theory is ridiculously simple. What I find completely confusing is that, in practice, it is often wishful thinking and theory that is nowhere near reality. Below is a
list of the most common mistakes
made in this type of work:
- lack of usability testing
navigation should be intuitive. If you make changes without testing - the elements introduced can be confusing or frustrating
- failing to include a mobile version
a lot of traffic comes from mobile devices. If the new navigation is not optimised for smartphones - users of these devices may have difficulty using the site.
- overly complicated structure.
The introduction of too many levels, complicated categories and unclear labels is discouraging. Navigation should be simple and direct.
No tracking of results after changes.