Your nonprofit’s most powerful asset is its website. It holds all the information that donors, constituents, volunteers and anyone else would ever need to make your mission a success.
As a result, it is imperative that your website boast an intuitive navigation system to get the information your website visitors are searching for efficiently.
But, what is the best way to organize my webpages? Should my navigation bar be at the top, along the left side, or the right? Should I have drop down menus? Should this page go under our “About Us” or “Get Involved?”
Answers to these questions and so many more are imperative to ensuring your nonprofit’s website has an effective navigation system.
Here are a few things to consider when designing your nonprofit’s navigation system.
1. Primary and secondary navigation
Primary and secondary varies between nonprofits, their websites, and what they need. What would be considered secondary at one, may be primary for another.
Generally speaking, the information you think would be most important to a visitor should go in primary. Your most trafficked webpages, your about us, contact, and other standard pages should go there.
Your primary navigation bar should more prominent than your secondary bar. Assume it should be larger, perhaps more centrally located, and easier for individuals to find.
2. Organizing your navigation
Because you’ve determined which pages are primary and which are secondary, you are ready to organize your content into more concise lists. All of the information contained on your website needs to be organized in thoughtful clear manner.
Make sure your navigation bar, and the titles underneath that bar are concise, and intuitive. They should be devoid of jargon or any words and phrases that may confuse a visitor to your site.
If you’re having trouble organizing, try card sorting. Write each of your website’s pages down on index cards or pieces of paper and organize them in a more tactile way. Give your set to someone else to organize and find similarities in your structures.
3. Horizontal or vertical?
Both horizontal and vertical navigation bars have their pros and cons.
Generally speaking, you should be considering a horizontal bar if you have 2-8 primary navigation bar items, you plan on using drop down menus, or if you are uniquely concerned with a horizontally focused aesthetic website.
A vertical bar should be considered more prudent when you have more than 8 navigation bar items, the width of your content area is flexible, or your navigation titles are long.
It is important to note that you do not have to exclusively choose between a horizontal navigation bar or a vertical. There are plenty of website that boast one of each. Some site use one as their primary and the other as their secondary and vice versa.
4. Drop down menus
If you have a lot of pages that are all similar, but require separate pages, using a drop down menu might be necessary. Just like your primary and secondary navigation bars, it is important to lets each item on the drop down menu breathe, and to make sure the text is not too small. You do not want visitors to your site to work for the information they need.
Above all else, make sure your drop down menu is clean. Keep the list clear and concise. Use highlighting effects to ensure the viewer knows what they’re selecting before clicking and that every item has its own space.
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