Website Navigation

We've been been working you hard in our series on how to start up a business and create a website for your online presence.

Now that you’ve identified all the funny names you will be calling the different pages on your site in our article on Understanding Web Pages, let’s thrash out how your online business customers should navigate through your website with a strong website navigation strategy.

There are many ways to map out your site. You can use a spreadsheet with all the mathematical help you need, a simple document with a clear white background to keep your mind uncluttered or even Microsoft’s One Note, which has both the clear background and the use of tabs.

Some might prefer the old card system by laying out post cards on a table or even the floor, writing the main headings on them and then shuffling them into a map system until you have found the ideal chart.

Website Navigation when starting up a business site

Essentially, you should focus on organisation of the content. Your site will be divided into sections according to user needs and expectations.

Website Navigation Brief

From the list below start to make notes about your navigation which will form your navigation brief.

This is the document you will provide to a developer if you are creating a bespoke website. Some instant sites also create semi bespoke sites with your navigation brief, so keep it handy. You may want to print it off and have a play around with it while you’re on the bus or train. A good way to use wasted time on public transport to your advantage!


Website Navigation Map

Break your website down into sections and think of it as a touring map. If you were travelling abroad in a campervan you will have looked at the areas and tourist spots you want to visit.
We’ll do something similar with your navigation map in order to outline exactly what your site should have for visitors.

First, let’s think about some of your favourite sites. Go to them and you should be able to find what you’re looking for in a matter of seconds; if you can’t you’ll probably leave. The same goes for your web pages. Your site must be easy to navigate!

Don’t let your viewers leave without finding what they came for. Your home page is your starting point. Most visitors come in here and leave from here so it is the most important page.

Although you can get found and you do want to get found through other pages, your home page is an important starting point.

When we discussed SEO and Page Optimisation, you’ll see that it’s just as important to get found through any and all of your own pages.

So with your navigation map, you need to decide exactly what you want to achieve and revisit your goals to remind yourself of your targets. If you are running an online shop you need to show this and feature your most popular or bestselling products right up front. If you want visitors to buy a particular item or offer then make that the first thing they see.

Ensure that your home page features the most important details, such as your USP, what’s different and better about your business, and your site’s key message – what it does, who it’s for, who it benefits – and all of this in one or two paragraphs. You can also divide up content into panels or blocks such as Remote Employment.

How To Manage Website Navigation

Now, let’s discover how you will manage this navigation and define the various terms that are used to describe the ‘innards’ of your website.

CMS: Content Management System

A CMS is software or an ‘admin’ area for managing your website content, thus known as a Content Management System. A CMS is the engine that allows you to manage the site, add content and gives you control 24/7. It also makes life easier and is way, way cheaper than having to constantly ask your developer to add content for you. That is just not an option!

Today, most websites are developed for you to log in and manage your ‘front end’ (what people see) by making changes to the ‘back end’ (your admin or CMS). If you are developing a site with a development company then insist on having your own bespoke admin section so you have complete control of your site.

This admin should enable you to control page content, your banners, layout, navigation and page order. From a long term and short term view this is definitely the way to go.


Most CMS provide an editing tool which has a ‘what you see is what you get’ interface. This type of editor is fondly known as WYSIWYG (pronounced wizzie-wig). This makes editing your pages flexible and easy, however it can cause more problems than it solves, especially in terms of web standards and new users not understanding web design.

Colouring Your Site

Imagine you write an article, and decide to make the headline orange, which you think goes nicely with the yellow colour scheme of your site. A year later, when you update the design to a different colour, you have to go through and change every article that you coloured orange. A laborious and tedious task. If you did it using Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) you would simply change one colour value in a separate file, and it would be reflected on your entire site instantly.

Wikipedia defines Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) as a Style Sheet Language used to describe the presentation, the look and formatting, such as the layout, colours and fonts, of a
web page.

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