Definitive guide

Navigation menu design basics

The benefits of user testing your navigation menu design

What are the benefits of user-testing your navigation menu design? Websites require regular user testing of their navigation menu design to ensure its success and the business’ profitability. But you might wonder what user testing is, when is this required, and how is this done for a website. Let’s go through each one first.

What is user testing?

User testing of a navigation menu design or navigation testing for short is a process of examining the effectiveness of your website’s information architecture.

This involves randomly selecting an individual—not necessarily your consumer—to test if they could easily find the information they need based on certain conditions or problem-solving situations given them. The aim is to ensure the ease of locating the information needed in the shortest time possible. So, technically, this is a form of market research and product development.

When is this normally done by website owners? That’s what I’ll talk about next.

Occasions that prompt user testing of navigation menu design

There are several occasions that prompt user testing of a website’s navigation menu design. This is during the soft launch of a new website, after a new website’s launching, after a website’s redesign, in part of the annual business planning, or throughout a website’s maintenance.

1. During a website’s soft launch

Many businesses often do a soft launch for their new website, as well as, campaign sites. The soft launch is a period of testing if the website is working properly and as planned. This is also a good time to user test the effectiveness of the website’s navigation menu design.

2. After a new website’s launching

Other businesses conduct user testing of the navigation menu design after a new website was launched. Doing so would immediately see the effectiveness of the website’s information architecture and correct any changes that need to take place in it.

3. After a website’s redesign

Similarly, a website’s redesign prompts an occasion to user test the navigation menu design as with launching a new website. Some companies undertake a website redesign based on the results of their original website design’s performance or analytics and user testing results.

4. Annual business planning

A company may also set a regular time for navigation testing such as once a year in part of its annual business planning so they would be able to see the costs involved in implementing whatever changes the website needs for the succeeding year.

5. Throughout a website’s maintenance

Finally, some regularly conduct user testing of their website’s navigation menu design. This could be done twice or thrice a year throughout the website’s maintenance with close monitoring of the analytical reports.

A sudden decline or continuous decline of website performance may indicate a need to reorganize the flow of information or consumer funnel. Of course, would be able to pinpoint this if there is ample time given to understanding what a website’s analytics reveal about its visitors.

How is user testing done for a website’s navigation menu design?

User testing of a website’s navigation menu design may be done in several ways. Website owners have the option to use the live site, to do it offline, or to use the software. All three options use the same process wherein the tester is given a scenario, a questionnaire, or a problem-solving situation meant to assess the effectiveness of a website’s navigation menu design.

The options for user testing

As mentioned there are several options for user testing, which are as follows:

1. Using a live website

When a live website is used, it is highly recommended to install a heatmap tool like Hotjar—on the laptop or computer that will be used by the tester. (If you need convincing, here are statistics on Hotjar that I posted previously.)

Heatmap tools assess what areas of the website visitors access or look at the most based on the movement of their eyes. The area most accessed by the visitor shows the areas they find most interest in or have the most need for.

While those least accessed are the ones least interesting. This allows website owners to see the behavior of visitors on their website and the effectiveness of the navigation menu design. The results then would provide insights into what aspects of the design needs to be highlighted, tweaked, or removed.

Another way of using the live site to test the navigation menu design is through the click test technique wherein users are similarly given a set of questions, scenarios, or problems and they click their answers on the website.

Tracking which sections, areas, or pages in the website they clicked first and thereafter before arriving at their answers to the questions, scenarios, or problem-solving given is the technique of assessing the effectiveness of the navigation menu design. Part of the assessment includes the difficulty or ease the testers had in arriving where they should be on the website.

2. Offline testing

For offline testing, one option is to screen capture several pages of a website including the homepage. This is then placed in presentation slides that will be used in the testing. The testers or the persons identified to test the navigation menu design are each given the same set of questions, scenarios, or problems to solve using the presentation slides. Their answers are then collated to arrive at insights into the effectiveness of the navigation menu design.

Another option would be to use a set of cards or post-its (card sorting technique) printed with the name of each section or page of the website. The user arranges this depending on the scenario or problem given to them to solve in relation to the website’s navigation menu design.

Their answers or how the cards are grouped based on the scenario or problem solving given them will allow website owners to see user perceptions on their navigation menu design—that is how people perceive that a particular information or need could be located in such a section of the website or not.

3. Using a software

There are many software available for user testing a website’s navigation menu design or information architecture. Some of these are C-Inspector, Naview, Optimal Workshop, Treejack, UserZoom, and UXtweak. These computer programs are made available online or offline for use and can even be downloaded on a mobile phone.

What differentiates these computer applications is the methodology they use in testing the navigation menu design. By methodology, this pertains to the process for user testing that they conveniently turned into a computer application for ease in arriving at results or recommendations on the effectiveness of the navigation menu design.

Using software would require website owners to input the sitemap or the different sections of the website so it will be able to mimic the flow of the website during user testing. During the user testing, the tester would have to click particular sections in the software to be able to answer whatever set of questions, scenarios, or problem-solving is given to them.

Some of these software use the card sorting technique as explained in offline testing. While others use the tree testing technique where testers or users are presented with the website’s navigation tree and asked where they expect to find particular information.

Advantages of website builders compared to coding from scratch

The process for user testing

The process for user testing the navigation menu design involves several steps. First of this is identifying the option you will use, that is if it would be your live site, offline, or an online tool.

Once this has been decided on, the next step would be to identify if you will be using a set of questions, a scenario, or problem solving for the user testing. Each of this options depend on what is most applicable to your situation—the time, budget, and number of persons involved in the process.

Set of questions

Formulating a set of questions to test the effectiveness of a website’s navigation menu design may be difficult. But it doesn’t need to be complicated. Simple questions that are direct to the point would arrive at better answers, as long as you are clear in your goal for doing the undertaking. The following are sample questions you can use that I scoured on the web as best to use:

  • Have you visited our website before?
    • Follow-up questions:
      • If yes, what do you do the moment our homepage opens?
        • Where do you go next from the homepage?
        • Is there a particular section or content in the website you like to go to? Why?
      • If no, what websites do you often go to with the same line of business as ours? Why?
  • What do you think of the website’s layout or the arrangement of its content?
  • What do you think of the language or tone of voice of the website’s written content?
  • What do you think about our website’s menu?
    • Follow-up questions:
      • If I asked you to look for (give particular information or content of the website), where on the website do you think or expect to find it?
        • Why did you go to (page or section) instead of (page or section)?
      • Where do you expect to find (give particular information or content) on the website?
  • How will you gauge your overall experience of navigating our website? (Give a range of options they could choose from, e.g. good, awesome, awful or poor, passing, excellent)
    • What did you find frustrating or annoying in your experience?
    • What did you like most about the website or its contents?

There are other questions you can formulate that are specific to your business and website. Just remember to ask geo-demo questions before the user testing questions as these are important to analyze your results accordingly by age group, gender, and other data categories relevant to your business and decision-making.


When it comes to a scenario, the user is given a make-believe situation so as to navigate through the website and find the answer or arrive at the information needed. Say your line of business is into reselling products for household and family needs, which are all available online. A sample scenario would be:

  • You missed coming home on Mother’s Day and are looking for an exemplary gift for your mom. You access the website of (name of your company) and look for offers for Mother’s Day that are still available. Since it should be exemplary, you don’t mind getting a pricey gift of (give a price range). What would you choose as a gift for your mom?
  • You broke the cupboard’s door handle and would need to replace it. You access the website of (name of your company) and look for a similar one. You find one but it is currently out of stock. What would you do to make sure you get one as soon as it is available?

These are but samples that you can tweak according to the content of your website and line of business. You can always create scenarios of your own according to how your website is structured.


Finally, problem-solving for user testing the navigation menu design entails setting a particular task that needs to be accomplished to assess how long it took to be done. Let’s use the same example above for the line of business in coming up with a sample problem-solving for user testing.

  • Find a $100 gift for Mother’s Day and purchase it. Rate the online shopping experience when you are done.
  • Create a profile on the website and log in to the Members Section. Find a cupboard door handle that you can purchase based on the number of points you earned from signing up as a member.

Again, these are just examples of problem-solving instructions formulated for user testing to give you an idea of its difference from the set of questions and scenarios used for it.

The primary benefits of user testing a website’s navigation menu design

Knowing what user testing is and how it is done has probably already given you an idea of the primary benefits of user testing a website’s navigation menu design. In particular, these are:

1. Enhance user experience

The primary benefit of user testing is to enhance the user experience on your website. User experience will make or break a website’s success. Ensuring your navigation menu design is at par with industry standards and user expectations of how a website should look and work will bring great results for your business both in the short term and long run.

2. Better user engagement

When visitors to your website have a great experience in navigating it, they would be able to better engage with you through your website. Better user engagement involves several factors and one of them is navigation. This means they are able to stay longer on the website and do a set of actions on it such as downloading content, sharing its pages or content, posting reviews, and clicking the pages.

3. Improve website responsiveness

Responsiveness, when it comes to a website, pertains to its flexibility to a visitor’s behavior and environment. By behavior, this means the orientation and size they prefer viewing your website. While environment refers to the platform or means they access your website such as their laptop or mobile phone.

The trend nowadays is to ensure websites would fit mobile phone screens since people have been found to use the gadget more often due to its ease of use wherever they may be. User testing your website navigation menu design should be able to make your website more accessible to more mobile phone users with the same look, feel, and flow as they would using a laptop or personal computer.

4. An intuitive navigation

The end goal of conducting user testing of a website’s navigation menu design is to arrive at an intuitive information architecture or structure. Intuitive navigation organizes information in the content in a manner visitors will easily access it according to their behavior, perceptions, and expectations.

5. Better website performance

At the end of the day, user testing, especially regular ones, will help greatly improve the performance of the website in terms of lower bounce rates, faster loading speed, maximized use of content, virality, and higher SEO ranking.

User testing also helps you identify the need to trim down website content such as the number of pages or reorganize how the website and its menu are presented for better performance. It’s a win-win situation!


The benefits of user testing the website navigation menu are many. Its main goal is to provide a better user experience online for optimum website performance that, in turn, results in higher conversation rates and overall good business performance.


1. Can you recommend general usability best practices for navigation?

Sure! General usability best practices for navigation menu design include applying the principles of clarity, consistency, responsiveness, and simplicity. Clarity entails labeling everything clearly in such a way that visitors would easily understand how to go about your website and where they are exactly in it. This is through the different signposts you’ve set up in it besides the navigation menu, such as call-to-action buttons and breadcrumbs. While consistency involves using the same menu design throughout your website so as not to confuse visitors into thinking that they have left your website. Responsiveness pertains to the flexibility of the website to adjust to the different viewing modes and gadgets used to view the website in such a way that it retains its functionality and overall design. Finally, simplicity pertains to the ease of moving about your website.

2. What recommendations do you have for designing mobile-friendly navigation menus?

For this, I recommend you read a previous post I made on mobile responsiveness. This has 20 tips that you must read to help you design mobile-friendly navigation menus. I also suggest you get a look at this best mobile-responsive website list and templates to give you a better idea of what’s working out there.

The benefits of user testing your navigation menu design
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Ralph de Groot – My Codeless Website

My name is Ralph de Groot. I'm the founder and author at My Codeless Website. Wake me up for a great web design. I love writing about website examples, too!

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