Home / Definitions / Navigation


Kyle Guercio
Last Updated May 24, 2021 8:04 am

Navigation is the action of users moving through and interacting with websites and applications. This includes moving between pages of a website, making purchases, altering settings, and more.

Navigation in user experience

Seamless navigation is a key factor in creating a positive user experience (UX). It decides how users interact with the site or application.

One of the most important aspects of good navigation is that it should be clearly labeled. Users need to clearly understand how to find what they’re looking for in order to accomplish tasks. This gives them confidence when navigating, and in turn, makes them enjoy the experience.

Navigation design

Navigation design, more commonly known as user experience design, is the discipline of analyzing and creating ways to help users better navigate through platforms. Designers use specific patterns, elements and human psychology to create good navigation.

UX is the interaction happening between the user and the asset, whereas user interface (UI) design is the creation of the asset or element itself. For example, the colors and typography used for a website. The combination of what assets will look like and where they are placed comprises navigation.

Navigation is now an essential factor for organizations. The vast majority of organizations now use a website and/or mobile app. The user experience is representative of the company’s brand. If users don’t like using a website or app, they are less likely to return.

Navigation for search rankings

Navigation also has an impact on how a website ranks in search engine results. Search engines determine the relevance and quality of the content of websites through bots that crawl through the pages. These bots use navigation elements as users would. The easier it is for bots to crawl a website, the higher a site is likely to rank.

Common elements of navigation

There are many common elements of navigation that are used in modern websites and applications because they have proven to provide a good user experience.

  • Tabs are a common tool used to allow users to switch between pages. In web browsers, tabs for different sites or web pages are typically located at the top of the window. In mobile apps, navigation tabs are commonly placed at the bottom of the screen.

an example of tabs in website navigation.

  • Hamburger menus are represented as an icon with three horizontal lines. When pressed, it reveals hidden navigation options, typically other pages. Hamburger menus started out as a mobile feature but have gradually been adopted by desktop sites as well.

picture of hamburger menu in website navigation.

  • Vertical navigation is similar to tabs in that it gives users the ability to quickly and easily navigate between different pages. However, vertical navigation elements are placed along the side of the screen, typically the left-hand side.
  • CTAs (call-to-action) buttons come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. But they will always be presented as a button of standout color. They are used to encourage users to take action, such as signing up for an account, making a purchase, or downloading a file.

call to action in webpage navigation.

  • Breadcrumbs are a design technique to show users what step they’re on in a process. This is commonly seen when filling out forms.

breadcrumb example in website navigation.