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Website Homepage Design Guidelines for Persistent Navigation

Is inconsistent navigation leaving users feeling lost on your site?

With inconsistent navigation, the ‘Back’ button is your best friend. An important aspect of good website homepage design is persistent navigation. It’s one of 14 points we analyze using the Mequoda Website Scorecard, what we believe to be the top 14 best practices for the running a Mequoda system.

Navigation bars and sidebars are best left constant, regardless of where the user moves on the site. If the navigation tools change, or users have to dig to find the information they want, they are likely to go to a better-designed competitor.

Does your persistent navigation reflect the depth and breadth of your content? Does it provide quick and easy access to customer service? Is it intuitive? Is it consistent throughout your site?

Users of your site should be crystal clear about where they are in your site, where they can go and how they can get back to somewhere they’ve been. With the exception of certain processes, like order flows, they should be able to navigate to all major areas of your website from anywhere in your website.

Persistent navigation strategy includes:

  1. A drop-down to types of content (for example “IT Research Library” or “Video & Audio”).
  2. A search content or quote box.
  3. Top navigation bar with topics and rollover to see sub-topics.
  4. Topic index pages with deeper content presented as bolded headline links, with photos, to highlight feature stories.
  5. Within an article, the breadcrumbs indicate the article’s location within the site.

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Persistent Navigation a best practice example

Our research indicates that a change in top-level navigation is best accomplished when you also change the nameplate and the URL. A best practice example is The Wall Street Journal.

WSJ has expanded its brand online to become the Wall Street Journal Digital Network. The US market is comprised of five separate websites WSJ.com, Market Watch, Barron’s, All Things Digital, and Smart Money. The navigation stays consistent but varies the color in the navigation bar to match each site’s nameplate.

Wall Street Journal Global Navigation Bar

The Wall Street Journal Digital Network - Global Navigation Bar

The five nameplates shown in the Global Network Navigation are the five primary US sites in the network. We love the consistent top navigation bar, because no matter which of the five sites you visit, it remains the same. This lends to the branding of each of these sites individually as well. The WSJ Digital Network also includes a dozen additional international sites all listed in the bottom site map.

The Wall Street Journal has good website homepage design including persistent navigation which further builds its brand online.

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