How to Build a Functional Navigation on Your Author Site

I must admit … this is my favorite part of author website development. To me, it’s more fun than design. Or copywriting. Or marketing. It’s figuring out everything that belongs on an author website and how to organize it in a way that makes it easy for visitors to find what they’re looking for.

And this is extremely important, even though it often gets lost in the website development process. If people have trouble finding what they’re looking for on your site, they’re likely to get frustrated and not come back. Keeping your site clean, clear and uncluttered is key!

With that in mind, here are some helpful navigational guidelines for you to keep in mind as you design your author site.

  • Horizontal or vertical? Almost all website navigations are either across the top or down the left or right hand side. Most people prefer across the top because it’s generally “prettier.” But there are a few benefits to vertical navigation, including the fact that it’s “newsier” (more serious looking), and that it is easier to expand. There is a fixed width for a website, but no fixed length. So you may never be able to extend a horizontal navigation in the future, but a vertical one can easily have tabs added or taken away.
    Here are examples of author sites with horizontal and vertical nav bars.
  • How many tabs? Common consensus among web designers is that you shouldn’t have more than 7 or 8 tabs in the navigation. If you need more pages than that on your site, you should consider….
  • Rollover functionality: This refers to sub-pages within each tab (or bucket) — that you can see when you “roll over” that tab in the navigation. This is a great way to organize content! And I personally enjoy figuring out how to group content together in categories, how to keep each bucket relatively even in terms of how many pages it contains, etc… See an example of an author website with rollover functionality.
  • Don’t be cute. Authors love to come up with cute names for pages. But don’t do it! While a cute title may work for a newspaper or magazine article, it just doesn’t work for the web. If someone looks at a tab in a navigation that reads something like “Egg-cellent,” they may never know what to find in that section of the site. But if the tab were titled, “Egg Recipes,” then it would be abundantly clear. Don’t make people click on a tab to find out what’s in it.
  • Consider two navigations. Another option for sites that have a lot of pages is to create two different navigations that serve different purposes. For instance, you could have everything about the book in the primary navigation, and a few links about the author in a smaller, secondary navigation. Also, pages like “Contact Us,” “For the Media,” “Privacy Policy,” and “Site Map” can always be small little links at the top or bottom of the site. People are trained to look there for these types of pages. Here’s an example of a site with two different nav bars.
  • Don’t go too deep. It’s a catch-22. You don’t want to have more than 7 or 8 tabs in your navigation, but you also don’t want to make people have to click too much to get to what they’re looking for. Within each of the buckets, you could have AT MOST two more levels of navigation. So if you had a tab called “The Books” and each book had its own page within that bucket (a sub-page), you could theoretically have an “excerpts” page within each book page (a sub-sub page), but you wouldn’t want to go any deeper. No sub-sub-sub pages. Make sense?

Are there any particular website navigations you really like? Any pet peeves when it comes to getting around a site? Let us know!

And feel free to contact us any time for a free consultation or website evaluation!