At Bandzoogle, one of the most important decisions we try and help our members make is what main menu options to have on their websites. Whether you’re building the new website for your band, or just doing a bit of cleaning up, the navigation has a significant impact on the experience your fans will have on your site.
Make Navigation Easy
The key thing to keep in mind when deciding on your menu options is to make navigating your website easy for everyone who visits your site. And those visitors can be different persons and have different goals for visiting your website.
They might be loyal fans, who are just coming to read the latest news and check out the tour dates. They might be potential fans, who want to hear one or two tracks, read your bio, maybe buy your downloads or join your mailing list. They might also be industry people (labels, promoters, bookers, etc.) looking for specific information, or a blogger looking for a picture they can use, or a short version of your bio.
The best way to keep navigation simple and quick is to limit your main menu buttons to roughly 8 choices. You can push that to 9, or even 10, but after that, it starts to get really messy. On the flipside, if you only have 5 or 6, that’s fine, but less than that, chances are you’re leaving out some key information and content from your site, or that some of your sections end up being too cluttered.
Where should the menu be?
We're big fans of nice and clear horizontal menus at the top of the page, which can be under or over the header image. We're less enthusiastic about vertical, side-bar type menus because our brains are getting used to tuning out side-bars because that’s where ads and static widgets are usually found on most popular websites.
One Clear Purpose Per Section
When creating your menu options, a good rule of thumb is to have one clear purpose per section of your website. So on your Bio page, don’t add a Fan Forum or a Guest Book. On your Calendar page, don’t add a blog. If you have certain features/elements to your site that are important, they should have their own section.
What’s in a name?
When naming your main menu buttons, remember to keep it simple. People have very short attention spans, and not a lot of time. If they have to think about what content *might* be in a certain section of your site because the name is fancy/cute/artsy, chances are, they’re going to skip it. So stick to names like “Home”, “About”, “Music”, “Shows”, “Store” and avoid vague names like “Experience”, “Discover”, “My World”, etc.
So which menu options should you have on your website? Here’s the Magic 8, the eight that we think are the most important:
The 8 Essential Menu Options for Your Band Website
Your Homepage is arguably the most important page on your website. It’s where people will most often land on your site first. This is where you can help guide people to which information you want them to see, and what action you want them to take. It is important to have it linked in your main menu as people often want to browse back to Home before exploring other sections.
On your Homepage you should include a short bio, a music player, your latest news, a strong call-to-action (to sign up to your mailing list, or to buy your latest album), and social media links. For a more detailed look at Homepages, check out our blog post “6 Essential Elements for Your Band’s Website Homepage”.
Next up is your “About” or “Bio” page. This is important for potential new fans to get to know your background, as well as for media and industry people to get your story. It’s important to have a few different versions of your bio (long and short), as conferences, festivals and media outlets have different needs. For some tips on writing a bio, check out our post “5 Key Elements to a Solid Band Bio“.
Seems like a no-brainer, but some artists don’t put an actual “Music” section on their site because they already have a music player on their Homepage. You should always include a music section on your website. This is where you can include info about your full discography, showcase your album covers, have a free song for download, and you can even include lyrics in this section.
A music player is essential to have on your site, but give people the opportunity to get even more information about your music with a specific “Music” section. Also, don’t call that section “Media” as this can be confusing (is it a Press page for the media? Is it photos, videos, music?).
Another essential section to have on your website is a “Shows” or “Calendar”, or “Tour” section. Make it really easy for fans to get info about your upcoming gigs, with details on showtimes, cover charges, opening bands, and even directions to the venues. A nice added touch to a “Shows” page is to showcase one of your best live videos, so people can get a taste of what to expect if they come see your show.
It’s no secret that fans love to look at photos of their favorite bands. So be sure to include a “Photos” section, which will also help keep fans surfing your website longer. To help organize your photos, create different galleries for promo shots, live photos, fan photos, etc.
We find that often artists simply send people away to their YouTube channel to watch their videos, but in doing that, you’re sending people away from your own website. Not only that, you’re sending them to a site that is filled with distractions, with tons of ads and lots of other unrelated videos (cats anyone?) to watch.
Instead, create a “Videos” section on your site and embed your best videos there. This also allows you to curate which videos people see, because on YouTube, there might be hundreds of live videos filmed by fans that might not best represent your band. Having your best videos on your site allows you to out your best foot forward and control the video content that visitors will see.
So important, yet this is another section that is often overlooked. Instead of simply providing links sending people away to iTunes or Amazon, why not sell music and merch directly to your fans? You’ll get a higher % of the money (ahem, with the Bandzoogle store you get 100% of your sales), and also collect email addresses in the process. You can still include links to places like iTunes for those that are more comfortable shopping there, but don’t miss out on the opportunity to sell directly to your fans. And make it super easy for them to do it in a few clicks.
Last but not least, make sure to include a “Contact” page on your site. Some people bury contact info in the footer of their site, but you’ll want to make it easy to get in touch with you, especially for media or industry people. So create a specific “Contact” page and include info on how best to reach you for booking, media inquiries and fan correspondence. You can also add your social links and a mailing list sign-up to this section as well.
Order MattersThese eight sections were actually listed in a specific order. It has become standard to have the “Contact” page at the end of the menu, and the “Store” also towards the end. A “Homepage” is usually the first option on the left side of the menu, with “About”, “Music” and “Shows” coming next. It’s become so common, that people’s eyes have been trained to navigate a band website in a certain way.
So try to more or less stick to this order when creating the navigation on your own site. Maybe that’s boring, but your website is your “business”... and we sure hope your content and design is what actually makes your website interesting.
Optional SectionsAs we mentioned earlier, you can push the number of main menu options to 9 or even 10. Some sections that you might think of adding would be:
Blog, or News
You can include a blog right on your Homepage, but if you just have some latest news and want to send fans to a specific section to read more in-depth posts, you can create a specific “Blog” section on your site.
If you’re actively promoting a new album, having a specific “Press Kit” section can make the lives of bloggers and other media people much easier. You can include your bio, official photos, your album cover, music for download, your best video, and any previous press you’ve received. For some tips on creating a great digital press kit, check out our post “Musician Website Quick Fix #9: Add a Digital Press Kit”.
What about sub-menus?In some cases, you’ll have information that doesn’t quite fit into your main menu options, but is related to them. This is where a sub-menu option, or sub-page, can be useful. For example, if you wanted to have all the lyrics for your songs on your website, you could make that a sub-menu option of your “Music” page. If you’ve decided to have a “Media” section instead of separate “Photos” and “Videos” sections, you can have those as sub-pages of “Media”.
But use sub-pages sparingly. You want to keep navigation as simple as possible, and having too many sub-menus can really make navigating your site a messy experience. This is especially true when navigating websites on a mobile device. If you’re using sub-menus, make sure that the main menu option is clickable, and include links to the sub-menu options on that page.
Hypebot contributing writer Dave Cool is the Director of Artist Relations for musician website and marketing platform Bandzoogle. Twitter: @Bandzoogle | @dave_cool