Best practices for your SaaS website design navigation es UX

August 14, 2024
12 minute read
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Navigating a SaaS website can often feel like finding your way through a new city.

As city streets guide you to your destination, a well-designed navigation system leads users to the pages they need on a website or SaaS application.

The difference between a frustrating experience and a delightful journey is how intuitively and efficiently the website's navigation guides you.

In this article, we'll explore the crucial role of navigation UX in SaaS and product design.

We'll explain:

  • Why SaaS navigation UX matters
  • Its relevance in the SaaS industry
  • Best practices to avoid common pitfalls
  • Practical strategies for crafting user-friendly navigation interfaces.

By the end of this article, you'll have a deeper understanding of the best practices for SaaS navigation design and why they are essential for creating successful, user-centric SaaS UX design. We will guide you through the process or understanding website navigation in SaaS. It's time to take a step back to understand your software as a service on a deeper level. Now, let's get into it.

Why does SaaS navigation UX matter?

Navigation UX best practices to reduce the cognitive load on users. So, instead of spending time and mental energy trying to find their way, users can focus on what they came to do, whether completing a task, finding information, or making a purchase. Navigation should feel like a natural guide, leading users through complex information architectures without confusion or frustration..

Consider a case like Snapchat's 2018 redesign met with significant user backlash. The update made it challenging for users to find their way around favorite features, leading to a petition with over 1.2 million signatures asking for a reversal of the changes. The above is a prime example of how well-established companies can suffer from navigation missteps. Users felt lost in the new layout, demonstrating how critical familiar, intuitive navigation is for user retention.

Similarly, in the e-commerce world, a study by the Baymard Institute indicated that 69.23% of online shopping carts are abandoned, and one of the reasons cited is poor navigational structure. Users who cannot easily find what they're looking for or get lost in overly complex menu systems are likelier to leave without purchasing.

For SaaS companies, effective menus is even more crucial. SaaS products often come with a range of features and complexities. A poorly structured menu can lead to lower user adoption rates, as potential customers may feel overwhelmed by the product and abandon it before realizing its full value. In contrast, a SaaS product with a well-thought-out structure can facilitate a smoother user journey, leading to higher satisfaction and retention rates.

Why is Navigation Relevant to B2B SaaS and Product UX?

SaaS and enterprise products, by nature, store large amounts of information and functionalities. They are required for their diverse user base. However, the main goal of such services is to enhance teamwork, productivity, and efficiency. So, these services should have clearly defined menus that make using their services simple.

For instance, Microsoft's initial releases of Windows 8 were criticized for their confusing menus, particularly the elimination of the 'Start' button and the introduction of the tile-based interface. This change was so poorly received that it reintroduced the 'Start' menu in subsequent versions.

Microsoft's case outlines the importance of creating software all people can use with ease. It shows the effects of basic menu choices in the context of a billion-dollar company.

In essence, bad UX can lead to user dissatisfaction and the necessity for quick remediation.

Common SaaS UX design issues

When designing a UX system, the same problems appear when a menu is bad. We are outlining them so you can avoid the issues most business owners face.

Although deciding what to label things may sound simple, many business owners make critical errors affecting their users' ability to interact with their business.

So, the terms people expect to see when interacting with your product should be at the forefront of your mind.

To make this simple to understand, imagine your roommate likes to organize the fridge by cuisine. They place all the foods from Latin America in one section. Meanwhile, they place vegetables like eggplant, commonly used in Middle Eastern cuisine, in another section.

But when you open the fridge, you just want to find the mustard quickly to start eating your lunch.

Can you see why the menu can become confusing for your users?

Now, let's get into the common issues business owners encounter.

Language that affects usability

You need to consider their word choices to build a menu people want. You must conduct market research to see what other businesses in your industry use on their menus unless you offer something revolutionary and unique. If a customer wants to quickly find settings, you would be best off putting the word settings and all the settings they would expect to find within that submenu. You shouldn't try to get witty or create confusing menu items that people are not accustomed to. Instead offer your users to understand different menu items and how they lead to different pages so they want to use the product you have built.

Common navigation that lacks predicatbility

People love a pleasant surprise, but not when it comes to SaaS and they are quickly trying to navigate a product to get their work done as fast as possible. If you are conducting a usability test, a question you could ask the users is, "Where do you think this menu button will take you?" then, you aim to match what they say every time.

The menu must be comforting and soothing for SaaS products in certain financial verticals. If you offer a tax program accessible online, people will want to feel at ease when completing their taxes. If they feel frustrated, it can lead to errors that could cost them money and their business.

To combat this issue, you should think about predictability in your menu. Some businesses try to get creative with menus that guide people but have complex titles. In most instances, users feel disgruntled by the lack of comprehension and predictability.

Don't take the presented information as too negative. We are only trying to instill a similar feeling to what your users will experience as they navigate a menu and cannot understand it. They will feel upset, worried, and confused.

An old SaaS website navigation

Over time, your product will mature and undergo implementations and iterations to improve its form and function. However, you must remember that as your product matures and changes are made, they must be uniform.

For example, when you update a product and its webpage, why not spend some time updating the menu? Can you imagine how confused a client would be if they saw a menu from 1998 and a modern, sleek webpage designed for 2024?

It's not uncommon to find businesses that use old menus on the top of web pages that have been recently updated. It's common because most SaaS industries focus on prototyping rather than creating low-effort solutions.

However, you should proactively update your menus as you update your website and products.

SaaS website best practices for designing navigation menus

Now that we've covered common issues with UX, we should touch on things to consider when designing your product's menu.

Below are the top consideration when designing a bar that will be efficient for users and simple to understand.

Map out the hierarchy

Before designing your navigation menu, you must understand how to structure the information. Once you clearly understand everything that needs to be presented, you can check for consistency.

To check for consistency in your menu, you can ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do all the terms help people understand where the menu button will take them?
  • How did I land on my current page, and did the button I clicked make sense for getting me here?
  • How many different ways could I get to this page?
  • Does the menu have too many submenu items that create confusion?
  • Are all the breadcrumbs important?
  • Could anyone understand my menu, even if they lack industry knowledge?

If you cannot answer these questions logically, you should return to the drawing board before designing your menu.

So, how can you effectively answer all the questions mentioned above?

You start with your users to understand what you need to improve.

Consider how users find your product menu

So, by now, you've outlined the architecture for your menu. You have the what; now you need to know the who. As mentioned, not all your service users will have the same permissions. So, you need to create specific patterns for your users based on their roles and necessary functions within your product.

A great example of a menu that gives specific functions to various users within a row is Google Search Console. If you own the website, you have significantly more options than someone who can view your property. However, in both instances, the menu hierarchy remains the same. The only difference is the number of functions available to each user.

Usability testing using analytics

User testing is the best way to check that everything makes sense to your users. You should review how people interact with your menu and their sentiments during the process.

When you conduct a usability audit, you should watch:

  • How people use your menu and move around it
  • The pages they spend the most time on
  • The path they take to arrive at those pages

If user testing isn't available, all is not lost. Your business should have a ticketing system to support users as they navigate your website. Pull out their queries and review them. Look for patterns and common issues to devise a plan to improve your website or application.

Identify Problem Areas

Start by mapping as we outlined above and you move through all the phases we've mentioned. You should be able to easily identify areas of concern .

Suppose your website has two functions that should exist in different sections of your product but are closely related. Should you separate these sections of your website into different menu items? Should you create a nested menu? These design choices are difficult to navigate. But before you can think about solutions, you need insight into your customers and how they use your products. By understanding needs and use cases deeply you can design a system that makes collecting quantitative and qualitative data simple and help users to easily get around your site.

Choose your words wisely

After you have found all the problems users have with your menu, it's time to create a plan of action to solve them. Below, we are giving some tips to aid you in the solutions process.

Think about the following:

  • Does all the language you've used include all users regardless of their role or permissions?
  • Have you used multiple synonyms? (you should avoid these)
  • Are there any concepts that are too similar and could cause confusion?

Remember that you want everything to be clear when creating a SaaS website navigation menu.

Labels can be tricky, especially if you have multiple users and features. You may need to consider concept terms involving multiple secondary terms for easier user movement on your platform while locating information and visual data.

For example, if you have automation software and users can modify the mode for partial or full automation by manually or automatically attaching items to emails, you could give the menu settings label the term "attachment styles." However, this would not fully encompass the settings. Instead, what would be better is attachment automation.

The most important consideration when designing menus for users with multiple levels of access is the view of the menu to all users. If you need to reduce user permissions for people with less access to features on your platform, the last thing you want is for them to feel your product is bare and unhelpful.

With all this said, you still need to choose your menu style. You can use various menus; we will describe them and their use case below.

UX best practices in action with menu types

The anatomy of your menu is very important. Not all menus provide the same functionality, and they shouldn't. Functionality should be centered around your product and the features it offers to customers.

We are sharing three common approaches to menus. However, the most effective menu may require a mix of all three of these menu types. The difficulty now is deciding when to break from functionality to produce a menu that most people will find simple.


Object-oriented meus is a method that categorizes content primarily under noun-centric categories.

If your product has a range of use cases, this style is particularly effective for products that manage many use cases.

Consider the case of Alex, a Marketing Director, who navigates to 'Campaigns' to scrutinize the latest marketing efforts and their outcomes in preparation for a strategy session. Contrast this with Jordan, a Product Manager, who selects 'Features' to oversee the development status of upcoming product enhancements. This approach creates an intuitive 'drilling down' effect, offering a direct and focused pathway to the necessary information.

The object-oriented approach excels in scenarios where user roles are tightly integrated with specific aspects of the software. For instance, if only Product Managers can access the 'Features' section, this style streamlines the user experience by aligning with the established access parameters. It is equally advantageous when the database is composed of discrete objects that require action, like individual projects that can be initiated, supervised, and analyzed.

However, this approach also carries a potential pitfall. A common misstep is the inclination to add new sections hastily without fully considering their integration into the existing structure. For instance, you might think adding a new section titled 'Parking' is simpler than weaving it thoughtfully into the current navigation bar framework.

Although seemingly convenient, this decision can accumulate disjointed items over time, negatively impacting the overall information architecture (IA).


A task-oriented navigation system is often the best choice for products with simpler workflows or users with aligned objectives. A familiar structure in this context might be 'Create,' 'Manage,' and 'Analyze,' providing a clear, overarching framework.

Within this framework, you can maintain a task-centric approach or transition to an object-oriented style as long as clarity and consistency are preserved.

Take, for example, a Content Strategist at a digital media agency. They might use the 'Create' function to initiate a new content project or to incorporate a new influencer into their strategy.

The 'Analyze' section becomes their go-to for insights into content engagement, influencer performance, and audience demographics.

Meanwhile, the agency's data analysts rarely interact with the 'Create' section; their domain is primarily within 'Analyze,' where they extract and interpret data to refine current strategies and develop plans.

A task-oriented style guides and educates users so you can create smoother learning curves and enhance the overall experience with your product.


Workflow-based menus proves its merit in scenarios where users engage in processes that are not only sequential but also intricate.

When people use your software product to complete difficult tasks, guiding them and providing minimal exploration is best.

Let's see an example of when this would be best.

Consider a research scientist applying for a grant through an academic institution's portal. The process involves distinct, sequential steps:

  • Understanding Grant Criteria
  • Submitting Research Proposals
  • Providing Supporting Data
  • Reviewing the application
  • Submitting the application

Each step in this workflow is critical and demands a focused approach so the scientist methodically completes each phase without confusion.

A workflow-style menu is great, but this approach is not perfectly tailored to the specific needs of all users, so it can become a source of frustration.

Users might feel trapped in an inflexible process, which increases the likelihood of abandoning the task altogether.

You should analyze how users perceive and interact with the workflow to prevent such scenarios. It might be helpful to blend this approach with other styles based on the unique requirements of your customers.

The goal is to create an experience that users can easily understand. If you have a free trial of your service, you can boost the conversion rate of your product and turn testers into real users faster.


Navigation UX is a critical aspect of SaaS and product design.You should guide users through your digital product in an intuitive, efficient, and satisfying way. You don't want to give users too many options but just enough to guide your users in understanding your product.

By avoiding common pitfalls and considering key factors in navigation design, you can create a user experience that meets and exceeds user expectations.


What is information architecture in the context of navigation UX?

Information architecture refers to how content and functionality are organized and structured in a digital product, forming the backbone of navigation UX.

How does user persona affect navigation design?

User personas represent different user types and their unique needs, which guides the creation of tailored navigation paths and features.

What role does analytics play in navigation UX?

Analytics provide insights into how users interact with the navigation, helping identify successful patterns and areas needing improvement.

Why is language choice important in navigation?

The language used in navigation directly affects user understanding and ease of use. It should be clear, concise, and resonate with the user's vocabulary.

Can navigation UX impact the overall success of a SaaS product?

Absolutely. Good navigation UX can significantly enhance user satisfaction, product adoption, and retention.

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