We design a lot of dance studio websites (yay!), and when working with a new customer the important question of navigation invariably arises. When having a dance studio website designed, it’s natural to think about what it will look like – color scheme, studio photos, background – and also about the content that will go onto your webpages. Just as important, though, is to consider your website’s navigation, and what the experience will be like for your dancers, dance parents and prospects.

Each link on your navigation bar leads visitors into a new area of your dance school’s website. This is a great opportunity to help guide them to each area with ease and simplicity. If your navigation is clean and organized, it will make for an enjoyable experience, resulting in a positive feeling about your studio (and by extension, more dance students coming through your doors).
Help visitors easily navigate through your dance studio's website!

We’ve all been on sites where we’re initially interested, but quickly start to feel like we’re stumbling around in the dark as we try to find answers to our basic questions. If new prospects are finding your studio’s website, the last thing you want is for them to leave in frustration!

Here are the top 3 navigation ‘best practices’ you can use on your dance studio’s website:

1. Naming

Each link should have the shortest name possible. Instead of ‘What our Dance Parents are Saying’, it’s better to use ‘Testimonials’. Instead of ‘Policies, Tuition, and Forms’, try ‘Studio Info’. And instead of ‘Our Dance Class Schedule’, use ‘Schedule’.

When people click on the navigation button for ‘Schedule’ and go to the page, the page heading in the main content area can say ‘Our Dance Class Schedule’, but if you have the whole page name in the navigation button, you will either run out of room or you will lose the attention of the visitor.

Of course, there are many other viable options, but these common webpage names have worked well for our customers:

  • Studio History
  • Faculty
  • Classes
  • Register
  • Policies
  • Fees
  • Company
  • News
  • Events
  • Gallery
  • Testimonials
  • Location
  • Contact Us

You can also combine two pages that work well together. For example, instead of a ‘Tuition’ page and a ‘Policies’ page, you can have a ‘Tuition & Policies’ page, and use mini-links at the top of the page to direct people to various parts of the page. The combined page still has a fairly succinct heading, and you can have fewer pages that way.

Deviating from the norm is perfectly fine; just make sure it’s obvious what a visitor can expect to find in each portion of your website.

2. Organization

It doesn’t matter how dynamic, beautiful, or captivating your website design is if your users can’t find your class schedule, location information, or how to register when they’re ready. If your dance school’s website has many pages (more than 7 or 8), it may be best to organize them by category and have a drop down navigation bar.

Drop down navigation menus allow dance parents and prospects to scan the different types of content in each section of your website without unnecessarily clicking through the pages of your site. It keeps the organization of your website cleaner. And the cleaner the navigation, the easier people will be able to find what they are looking for!

3. Location

Which is better for users, a top or left navigation? The truth is that there are pros and cons to each. Ready for a rumble? It’s top navigation vs. left navigation… may the best orientation win!

Round 1: Page Space –
With a left navigation, the navigation links occupy the left column of your page. This shrinks and narrows the content area of your page, which means you will have less space for your content. A top navigation, however, uses minimal vertical space, which allows you to occupy the content area of your page with content only. The winner of this round? Top (horizontal) navigation.

Round 2: Visibility –
Top navigation items are more visible because they are always above the fold and are easier to find. Left navigation items are not always above the fold because sometimes if you have too many items, some of them can get pushed below the fold. Top navigations are also easier to find because they are usually accompanied by the header and logo, both of which are visually dominant objects on a web page. The winner of this round? Top navigation.

Round 3: Scanning –
A left navigation is faster and more efficient for users to scan… the vertical scanning direction is more natural for people. The top navigation forces a horizontal scanning direction that people often use when they’re reading. The winner of this round? Left navigation.

The conclusion: If you feel strongly about having a left navigation bar and don’t mind giving up the space in your content area, then by all means, go that route. For most dance studio websites, though, a navigation best practice is to use a horizontal menu bar at or near the top of the page.

Beware the following: As wild a concept as it may seem, some folks like to hide their navigation somewhere else on the page because they think it makes the site more interesting. Unfortunately, this leads to a frustrated visitor who can’t seem to find the information they need, and ultimately leaves – never to return.

Beware this as well!: It’s best to have only 1 navigation bar! If you have a horizontal nav bar, plus one on the side or, one on each side (yikes!), it makes the experience more confusing for your visitors. Even more so if you have duplicate link names. Keep it simple, clean, easy to navigate, and your customers and prospects will be much more likely to hang out longer on your site.

And a bonus tip:

Make Your Logo Take a User Home
For those dancers/dance parents that need to leap back to your homepage, make sure your logo is clickable and takes a user back home. This is a common convention and many visitors to your studio’s website will expect it to be the case. Studies are showing that this logo link is used far more often than realized. A perk to doing this is that you don’t need to have a ‘Home’ button on your subpage navigation bars, leaving more room for other headings.

People generally don’t like to feel lost, and If users can’t easily navigate to what they’re looking for, they’ll move on to their Facebook page, or worse yet, the website of a rival dance studio. By keeping the user in mind and your navigation simple, logical, and consistent, you’ll have happier site visitors that stay longer and visit more often!

Best wishes,
Stacey

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