What Really Matters in Navigation Bar Usability?

A look at real A/B tests across several large enterprises suggests: everything.

Designing a navigation bar can be a humbling exercise. We want to consider our visitors’ natural orientation when browsing a site, along with their short attention span, and lay out a navigation structure that’s logical yet elegant. So what’s most important when designers think about navigation bar and sub-navigation usability practices?

In this post, we’ll examine several A/B tests conducted by large enterprises with plenty of resources, great attention to detail and a hunger for answers flanked by scientific method. Looking at this type of data, it quickly becomes clear that minutia such as link style, sub-nav structure, list order and the like, aren’t minutia at all. They can prove critical to the success of the site.

 

To sub-nav or not to sub-nav? That was Dell’s question.

In this first case study, a clever and meticulous team of Dell marketers discover that 5 pages in particular on their website correlate highly with visitors who complete a lead form. Their hypothesis becomes: if we put these pages in front of new visitors, perhaps they, too, will be more likely to convert, as it seems something about these 5 pages is compelling to them.

The A/B test Dell ran involved a baseline version of the site as it was already set up, with the B version offering visitors the 5 critical pages as sub-nav items. That move yielded 39% more leads.

Version A