Building an Effective Intranet Navigation Menu
Intranet navigation menu
Just like the company’s outward facing site, every intranet needs navigation menus to help users find their way around. The overall usability, i.e. the design of your site can be the success or doom of your intranet. A central aspect of this usability is the site’s navigation menu.
Get it right and users will willingly use the site to share content, communicate with others and anything else. If the navigation menu fails, users will get distracted, frustrated or just give up because they can’t find what they’re looking for.
Building your navigation menu can be trial and error so here are 10 great tips to get you started:
- Keep it Simple
Best advice is to keep it simple by focusing on tasks and information most important to your users’ objectives and workload. Don’t try to cram all of your information structure into one drop down menu.
Use simple and obvious terms that are easy to figure out. Any link that takes users more than a second or two to figure out is probably unsuitable.
If a user needs to click on a link to figure out what the link leads to then you’re wasting your users’ time.
So while your menu should mirror your information structure, it should also follow easily recognisable patterns and logically defined categories. If your design is on point and based on user testing and feedback, basing your menu on this structure is an easy win.
- Use clear words and Create Calls to Action with Verbs
Many industry experts recommend naming menu items with verbs instead of nouns. For example, say “Send Form” instead of Forms, “Request Time Off” instead of Vacation Calendar, or “Register for Courses” instead of Courses. When your menus show the potential for action, your users are more likely to use them.
To add to menu clarity, use visuals and keep wording to a minimum. If it helps, make your wording a little more personal or social.
- Choose Horizontal Over Vertical menus
Your intranet allows for top horizontal and side vertical navigation menus on any page, but don’t be tempted to do both. Top horizontal menus are typically recommended over vertical menus. A vertical menu can take up valuable page space and affect user experience. So if you need to choose one, definitely choose horizontal. To save space on your intranet but still create large menus, you can use Mega Menu navigation (see below).
- Make use of Mega Menus
Mega Menus are useful because they can effectively sub-categorize related content into vertical columns in a dropdown from the top horizontal menu. You can have up to three columns, but don’t overdo it. Again, keep it simple.
- Don’t put too many items in your navigation
Like any website, having too many links on one page is both distracting as well as terrible visually. What is too many? Experts say even eight may be too many. This is because short term memory holds only seven items. That means eight is a LOT more than seven.
So if you remove a menu item, the rest are guaranteed to stand out more as your focus menu item becomes that much more prominent. Try this tip with the rest of the page as well, not just navigation. Make certain things stand out by removing other items.
- Know Your Audience
It’s important that you know what your users will be looking for. Ask yourself what do they need and want but also ask them! Make sure you consider different age groups, job occupations, departments etc.
- Make Use of Site & Page Access
With view security and page access, you can use this feature to simplify your menus for the user rather than offering a company-wide menu that not everyone will use. If there are specific departments, use page access to limit what users see in their navigation menu keeping it simple and more user-friendly.
- Make it visual
Using icons instead of words is a great idea for keeping users engaged. If there are easily recognisable visuals for labelling menu items, by all means, use them. Our brains favor visual information over textual information. They can also help to make a navigation bar more friendly and fun to use. But do make sure they match the rest of your site design. Colours are important and should match your design scheme.
- Standardize the Navigation design
As much as possible, use the same navigation model in all your pages. Without a consistent design, the user may get confused as to where they have been taken to. Placing your navigation bar in the same place also makes your site easier to use.
- Test it
Don’t just take our word for it. Or Joe Bloggs over there. Always test your navigation design with your users, taking a selection from across department, offices and job title. You might even want to bring in people who were not related to the design process to test it. Watch how they search, what they are looking for and the time it took for them to find the pages that they were looking for.
So there you have it. 10 tips for making your navigation menu effective and useful. In summary, keep it simple, use clear words and calls to action with verbs, use horizontal menus, don’t be afraid of mega menus, don’t put too many items in your menu, know your user preferences, make use of site and page access, use visual icons and standardize the menu across pages. Finally, test it on your users because if you can get your navigation right, you’re bound to have an effective intranet.