Tactic #28 - Restructure your navigation menu

Tactic_Restructure your navigation menu


Re-ordering your navigation menu by putting the most important links at the beginning and the end of your menu will help to ensure visitors notice and click on them. Research has shown that people recall the first and last items in a series best, and the middle items worst. Links at the beginning and end of a menu on a website receive the most clicks.


  • Serial Position Effect (Ebbinghaus, 1913; Murdock, 1962; Glanzer & Cunitz, 1966)
  • Processing Efficacy (Jacoby & Dallas, 1981)

The Research

Serial Position Effect

The Serial Position Effect (notably studied by Ebbinghaus, Murdock, Glanzer and Cunitz) refers to the finding that recall accuracy will vary as a result of where an item is positioned within a list. Items are more likely to be remembered if they are presented at the beginning (the primacy effect) or the end (the recency effect) of a list, relative to those items presented in the middle. We remember more easily the first few items because of the greater amount of cerebral processing devoted to them, and we remember more easily the last few items because they are still in our short-term memory when recall is needed. Items that benefit from neither of these effects (the middle items) are recalled most poorly.

For example, the Serial Position Effect might be experienced in everyday life when you go the supermarket after having only been given a verbal list of items to buy. In the time it takes to get there and then with all the distractions available as you wander the aisles, it’s unlikely you will remember all the required items: you will tend to remember the first few, as your brain was actively processing these as they were told to you, and the last ones you heard most recently before you left.

The Serial Position Effect has innumerous applications within advertising and marketing. Taking this principle in to account is important for TV advertising (during which commercial break or where within each break will your ad be best received and remembered?) and for online advertising (where should ads be placed to ensure maximum attention of internet users?). A study done in 2006 showed that links at the top and bottom of a website menu received the most clicks, so when marketing online it is best to place the most important links at the top and bottom of a page or marketing email.

Processing Efficacy

Processing efficacy is based on the idea that objects differ in the fluency with which they can be processed. Our judgement of something can be dramatically altered by how fluent it seems to process it and we engage more positively with high fluency experiences. Fluent processing can be facilitated by several variables such as repeated exposure to a stimulus, aesthetic attractiveness of the object, expressions that rhyme, and so on. By contrast, low processing efficacy occurs when we find something difficult to interact with or understand and so it requires more cognitive effort and strain, which results in a negative feeling towards it.

For example, several experiments have revealed that people are more likely to react positively towards, and agree with, statements that are easier to read: the lack of cognitive strain involved with comprehending the statement results in an intrinsic positive feeling towards it and simplicity is also translated as beauty in the human mind and we often judge something we perceive to be more beautiful as more positive and truthful.

Processing efficacy has multiple applications in web-marketing, especially with regards to website design: the aesthetic attractiveness, the page speed load time or the ease of interaction of your website are all factors that will affect whether your visitors enjoy using your website and therefore engage and interact with it, complete actions, share it on social media, recommend it, etc.

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