What’s In A Global Header? 14 Nuggets From A Deep Dive Analysis

When visitors hit your website, you have seconds, not minutes, to capture their attention. For website strategists and architects, this puts much pressure on the “global header” to pull visitors deeper into the website, and do it quickly.

First, let’s level set on what global headers are. “Headers” can mean many things according to online dictionaries out there. Among more obscure definitions, it’s a common term used in football / soccer where a player strikes the ball with his or her head. In the digital world, it too has multiple meanings, but most consider headers to be the top part of a web page.

The “global” in “global header” refers to headers that are uniform across multiple pages on a website. This is common as branding / logos and website navigation should be omnipresent so visitors can absorb the brand, and, at the same time, find their way around on the website easily (i.e. navigation).

What is unique about global headers on a page is that everyone that visits a page has a good chance to see them. It is common sense, and proven through analytics data, that as visitors scroll further down a web page, the content is viewed less frequently. Some visitors don’t even think to scroll, so in these cases, what they see is what they get.

For the analysis, I focused on websites that are mostly for small to medium-sized Software-as-a-Service companies. Desktop only. English only. Less on design, more on navigation aspects. The analysis was done in Q2 2018 – just like prices and offers, global headers are “subject to change.”

Here are some statistical nuggets that came out of the analysis…

  • 76% (38 of 50) of headers analyzed used 1 row for global navigation. The balance used 2 rows for navigation.
  • “Login” was the most common label type, present in 58% of the headers.
  • “Resources” was the second most common label type, present in 46% of the headers.
  • “Pricing” appeared 42% of the time.
  • “Products” and “Solutions” were both present 38% of the time. Most ties aren’t interesting, but that one comes close. These labels can guide to similar content, but one is portrayed as something tangible to purchase, while the other label speaks to how such products solve a need or a pain point.
  • 38% of the 50 headers analyzed had “onboarding” type labels with “Sign Up” leading the way with 9, followed by “Try” (4) and “Free Trial” and “Get Started” with 2 each.
  • 18% of the 50 used at least one “audience” type label (i.e. students, developers, etc.). This is an engagement pull approach, using terms that “hit home” for those visitors that are part of such a segment.
  • Only 26% of the 96 label types present appeared in more than 4% of the global headers that were part of the analysis. This means it is very normal to insert important navigation labels that are unique to specific businesses.
  • “About” – a more popular label in the web’s early days – surfaced 30% of the time, while a similar entry point “Company” came up 22% of the time.
  • “Support” shows up nearly a quarter of the time, at 24%.
  • “Contact Us” is present 22% of the time.
  • 60 of the 96 label types present across all 50 global headers were unique and used only once.
  • “Why [company name]” was only used in 10% of the headers.
  • The “Blog” term is still kicking – present in 22% of the headers.

Most websites jam many navigation labels into the global header. Only four had 3 labels or less. Two of these are going out of the box and using the mobile look and feel – including a “hamburger” icon we often see on mobile devices – on a desktop.

The global header is important screen real estate – use it well. Hopefully these nuggets can give you some ideas. Additionally, tap quantitative split testing and qualitative user testing to ensure you are making the most of your hot screen real estate property.

Originally posted on LinkedIn

Jake launched SAP's Innovation Lab in 2011 and has since led the large scale testing and optimization program. Jake is passionate about powering the data-insight-value pipeline and finding creative ways to maximize value from digital landscapes.

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