SaaS navigation UX: Best practices for your SaaS UX

User experience is a key part of any successful software product. And navigation is a key part of the user experience. It's what helps customers find their way around products. Good product navigation design can lead to an increase in conversion rates, while bad navigation will lead to frustration and abandonment. The success of products largely depends on it. And this is especially true when it comes to SaaS (software as a service) products. So it's important to get SaaS navigation UX right.

What are SaaS UX best practices?

UX Navigation is not about just putting a navigation bar on the top or bottom of the page; it's about how that navigation bar helps SaaS product user find their way. The goal of navigation is to make sure that customers can find what they need with minimal effort while also providing them with an enjoyable experience. Navigation is one of the most important aspects when it comes to designing a SaaS product.

Navigation example in Lox by Merge Development
Navigation example in Lox by Merge Development

It's also one of the most challenging things to create because there is no "one size fits all" solution. Understanding that there are no universal best practices for designing good navigation is essential. But there are some things to keep in mind when creating strategy for designing your SaaS interface.

Identify core user needs

And then create navigation that supports the core user needs. The goal of any design is to help users find the information they need and not just be eye-candy on the screen. You need to consider different factors such as: who your target audience is, what content you have and what industry your SaaS falls under. To create good navigation, it's essential to understand the user's goal and engage them in a focused way that leads them to their desired outcome. Consider the following while doing SaaS product design or redesign:

  • What information does a user need to complete these tasks?
  • What tasks do a user need to complete these tasks?
  • How can we best meet users' needs?
  • How can you make navigating easier for customers?
  • How can you make navigating more enjoyable?

Make it easy to find what users need

Users should always be able to find what they need at a glance. Navigating the site should be intuitive and simple so that people can find their way around without having to stop and think about how they need to go about it.

Provide enough information for users to complete their tasks effectively. To do this, you must have a clear hierarchy so that the users know where they are in the navigation at any given time. You also need to be able to provide quick access to features or information by using shortcuts and buttons. It's also important to keep usability in mind and not overwhelm your users with too many options, making it difficult to know where they should go next.

Make sure the UI is simple and consistent across all pages

When navigating through a website or app, consistency and clear information architecture is key. Be sure that the navigation elements stay the same throughout the site or app so users can easily recognize where they are at any point during their visit. Use consistent terminology throughout your site so that users can quickly learn what each button does and where it will take them.

Simple and consistent navigation in SaaS interface design means that:

  • It's intuitive, providing clear paths for users to take with minimal distractions;
  • It doesn't contain too many options that are not relevant to the current page or screen;
  • It feels responsive, meaning that it doesn't take too much time to load when you click on something in the menu;
  • It has a search function for users who know what they want but don't know where it is located in the app;
  • It provides clear labels on the navigation bar or any other navigational elements;
  • It offers shortcuts to help people get back where they were easily;

SaaS UX design patterns

Do you know what a user experience design pattern is? It's a template for solving a problem. User experience design patterns are templates that can be applied when designing interfaces. Designers have created these templates to solve specific problems across different types of applications and websites. These patterns are not exclusive to the SaaS industry, but they are especially applicable.

A good example of this is how users sign up for a service: it's often as simple as entering their email address and password and clicking sign up. This is because it's the most common way to sign up for an account on any website or app.

UX Design Patterns are used to help create a consistent user experience across all platforms. They also provide guidance on what to do when faced with certain situations, such as when a user wants to cancel their account. Performing a competitive analysis for UX design might be beneficial, as it gives you insights into how the navigation in other SaaS products is built.

SaaS product navigation can be done through a menu bar or tabs. Menus are an essential part of the product common navigation and can be found in a number of different places on a website or application. Here are some of the most common types of  navigation that you will find in most modern applications:

Tabs. It's a widespread type of menu in UX. This is an excellent way for users to quickly find information on a website or application and then go back to their original page if they want to continue browsing. The downside is that when there are too many tabs, it can be challenging to find the right one.

Tabs
Tabs

Dropdown menus. It's also another popular choice for designers because they offer an easy way for users to navigate through different pages without having to scroll down the page endlessly. Dropdown menus are a type of menu with only one option visible at first, and then when you click it, more options appear below it in a list form.

Dropdown menus
Dropdown menus

Popover menus. They can be used for quick access to content or information that needs to be shown on top of other content. This menu pops up over an app to show what the user can do inside the app. Popover menus can be used in all sorts of situations and typically have more items than tabs or dropdown lists.

Popover menus
Popover menus 

Hamburger menus. Remember a three-line icon in the top left-hand corner of the screen that expands to reveal a full menu when clicked on? It's called a hamburger menu. Accessing the main features is quick and easy without taking up too much screen space. This pattern also allows users to browse through content without having to scroll all the way down.

Hamburger menus
Hamburger menus 

Breadcrumbs. They are popular with more traditional websites because they provide an easy way for users to see where they're currently in the hierarchy of pages. They allow users to know where they are within the website's navigation structure so that they don't have to rely on memory alone.

Breadcrumbs
Breadcrumbs

Best SaaS navigation examples

Noviscient is an investment management platform and is one of the examples of SaaS products with the right UX navigation. The navigation has been designed to be simple and intuitive, so that users can quickly find what they are looking for without any confusion or inconvenience.

Noviscient by Merge Development
Noviscient by Merge Development

Dropbox  has an intuitive UX navigation system that makes it easy to use and navigate the app without any hassle. It has a tab bar at the top of every page that allows you to jump from one section of the site to another without having to go back and forth between tabs or pages.

Dropbox
Dropbox

Lumen5 has a similar UI, and it's easy to navigate through all of its features. The UI is clean and straightforward, and it's easy to find your way around. It's also very intuitive, so you don't need any instructions to figure out how to use the product.

Lumen5
Lumen5

Most common mistakes designers often make

Many mistakes can be made when designing navigation. These mistakes are often overlooked because they are easy to make and difficult to spot.

These are the common navigation mistakes in user experience design:

  1. Using too many menus. This may seem like a no-brainer, but there are many sites out there with fifteen levels of dropdown menus! This just leads to more confusion for the user as they have to scroll through pages upon pages of options before finding what they want.
  2. Not making it obvious where the navigation is. This can be done by either not providing a link to the site's main menu or not creating a clear visible link to the website's home page.
  3. Having non-standardized link colors. Link colors should correspond with their function on the site (e.g., blue for external links).
  4. Having no visual cues or indicators as to where you are within a website.

Why is navigation in UX so important?

The importance of good navigation in SaaS design is an often overlooked component. Imagine a user trying to find their way around an unfamiliar website without any form of navigation. It would be like a person trying to navigate through the woods with no map and no landmarks. Digital space can't be traversed as easily, so navigation becomes even more important as it ensures that users can find what is needed quickly and efficiently.

It can be the difference between a happy customer and an unhappy one. How people navigate through a SaaS app determines how easy it is to find what they are looking for, as well as whether they will continue using that SaaS app.

Final Thoughts

A key takeaway is that it's essential to have a clear and intuitive navigation system in place, with clear labels and icons that make sense within the context of the product. Poor UX navigation is one of the main reasons people don't use software, and if the site or app has bad UX, customers may never come back.

If you're looking to improve the user experience of your SaaS, then you must make sure that your navigation is easy to use and quick for your customers to find what they need.

Sergey Gyluyk

Head of Growth

Head of Growth and Customer Success. I'm interested in design, new tech, fashion, exploring new places and languages. My mission is to make our clients happy.

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