Navigation headers are a fundamental component of the website browsing experience. So much so that they’re sometimes overlooked, and lawyers may not give them much thought when designing their site.
But that’s a mistake that can negatively impact the customer journey.
Here are some simple techniques to optimize your legal site’s navigation headers and help visitors seamlessly find what they’re looking for.
Use No More Than 7 Navigation Headers
The first thing to take into consideration is quantity. You want to find the sweet spot where you include enough headers to facilitate smooth navigation but not so many that it’s overwhelming and ends up confusing visitors.
Most experts agree that seven is the maximum number of navigation headers to use. Once you go over that, it takes up a lot of above the fold real estate, creating a cluttered look and a “paradox of choice” where visitors can become paralyzed by indecision.
This example by the New York City Bar is a good example that uses five headers.
Place Critical Links at the Front or End of the Menu
There’s an old psychological study from 1968 by Atkinson and Shiffrin that coined a term called the serial position effect. “Experiments show that when participants are presented with a list of words, they tend to remember the first few and last few words and are more likely to forget those in the middle of the list.”
Many web design experts believe this concept also applies to navigation headers where visitors are more apt to notice the links at the front or end of the menu. That’s why you’ll commonly see links to contact or sales pages at the end, which is intended to boost conversions.
Using vague descriptions like “Solutions” or “What We Do” may not give visitors a full understanding of what they’ll find by clicking on a link. In turn, they may have to do additional exploration to find what they want, which can wear on their patience.
But you can improve the UX by being as specific as possible with your navigation headers. For example, NYC-based attorneys Outten & Golden include descriptions like “Our Team,” “Practice Areas” and “Cases,” which instantly let visitors know what type of information they’ll find.
Use Contrast in the Design
Another crucial aspect of streamlined navigation is following design best practices. Besides being practical and descriptive, the headers need to look great aesthetically.
One of the easiest ways to do this is by using plenty of contrast between navigation headers and the rest of your legal site. Both of the examples above illustrate how to do this, as they both feature darker fonts with a lighter background.
Notice how they both also feature adequate negative space to prevent the design from feeling cluttered.
Ensuring Smooth Navigation
Many legal sites simply slap up navigation headers without fully thinking it through, which can hurt the UX as well as conversions. Following these simple techniques will help prevent common mistakes and make your site much easier to explore.