What You Need to Know About Website Navigation

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When you’re looking at creating a truly usable, functional and elegant navigation system, you’ll find that to start, you are not offering increasingly more options; rather you’re narrowing them! Many people believe that good service comes with more choices, but in regards to navigation options, the fewer choices you initially offer, the better. Essentially, the choices can be limited at first, if only they end up taking the end user to the place where they need to go.

To truly get the most out of your website, there are two steps that you need to consider. First, you need to choose the type of navigation menu that is required. Then second, you need to create it.

Before you begin, you should make sure that you understand what is meant when we say navigation menu. Essentially, this is a part of the interface that allows your end users to find what they need on your website. Depending on what you offer, the navigation links will take them to your products, your services, information about your company, information that you offer as educational aids, and more.

Do you understand the difference between a primary and a secondary navigation model? These words are thrown around quite frequently, but truly understanding what these words mean can be a little tricky.

A primary model is also referred to as a traditional model. In this model, the user will hover the mouse over the categories or click to select and browse. A secondary model is also called an alternate navigation model, and it tends to to be more open ended and intuitive.

There are five main types of navigation that you can choose from when determining the best one for your website. Though there are different combinations and alternatives, each type of navigation system that you choose will eventually come back to these five options.

Starting with the least to most complicated, types of navigation systems include:

Menu Bar
A menu bar is an extremely simple method of getting your users to your content. This bar may be a horizontal or vertical bar across the website, and will feature the most frequently accessed categories or topics on your website. If your website is very simple and very straightforward, this is a great choice.

Each section on the menu bar will take you to a new page.

The problem appears with this navigation system when you have too many categories or selections which causes the page to become crowded. If you are gravitating towards the menu bar, remember that your best bet for making it work for you is to keep your content relatively simple or to break it down into just a few categories.

Another issue occurs when users have smaller screens than the developers do when developing your website. This can cause your navigation system to stack on itself, creating a rather cramped look. This in turn, can hide a lot of what you want your clients to see or make it difficult for them to access.

The solution for this issue could be a vertical navigation bar. It’s important to remember that the vertical bar can eat up space on the page. However, this space could be used better to introduce your work to your clients.

Unless you can make your pages fit across a fairly narrow range, it is best to move on to regular drop down menu options.

Regular Drop Down Menu
A regular drop down menu is one that needs to be triggered. It does not open until the user either clicks on it or hovers their mouse over it. When they perform one of these actions, a menu appears for them to choose from. Most drop down menus drop their contents into a single, long column.

This menu option loads quickly, and it’s a good choice when the content that you are trying to get your clients to access can be clearly described in text. Sometimes, you might get icons next to the text listings, but this is rare. Theses icons are quite small and do not offer much in the way of detail.

A regular drop down menu is a good choice for many reasons. It’s a fairly simple menu, it’s immediately grasped by the visitor, and it takes up little space. You will find that this menu option is a good choice if your website is mostly text based.

However, this option maybe a little too simple for you if you find that the columns are extending all the way down the page. Remember, that proportion is a key factor as you move forward with your web page design. Sometimes, this issue can be fixed by breaking down the categories somewhat. Yet, unless there are only a few very different subcategories, you will find it difficult to navigate from submenu to submenu.

Once again, the best thing that you can do is make sure that your content fits this type of navigation style. You should upgrade to the next form of menu if you have too many options to fit securely.

Mega Menu
A mega menu is essentially a very elaborate version of your basic dropdown menu. This menu, instead of sticking with text or small icons, uses images to visualize the options that are required.

With a mega menu, you will receive a lot of information with each option, but the thing to remember is that there is absolutely a cost! This website will have slightly longer load times due to all the activity going on. Ultimately, if your website does not need all of this detail, it can be a waste of time.

However, one of the best reasons to choose a mega menu is the visualization aspect. Remember, if your clients and end users cannot navigate their choices quickly and clearly, you’ve lost them.

It’s a fairly thin line that divides whether or not to use a mega menu or a separate page. If you choose the mega menu, your text descriptions need to stay relatively short and to the point.If you cannot cram all of the necessary information onto the mega menu option then you need to ascend once again.

Separate Page
If you simply have a lot of pages that your customers need to see, or if all of your products are extremely different and deserve their own area, you need to work with linking your menu to each of these separate pages.

The best thing about the separate page navigation model is that you can put virtually all of the information that you want into the area that is necessary.

This is an entire page of links to each of the separate items that you want to show your customers. Though this solution is not as necessarily elegant as a menu on your homepage, it’s still the best choice if you have a lot to offer.

Sometimes, a mega menu is simply too unwieldy and too difficult to organize. Allowing everything to have its own separate page keeps your homepage tidy without asking you give up important details to your clients about what you’re offering.

Dynamic Filters
Dynamic filters are among the most complex way to get your users to their end goal. However, they’re also wonderfully intuitive and they’re perhaps the most effective way to organize data. If your website is one that bogs and slows down easily, you may need another option because these filters require the most memory.

Essentially, with a dynamic filter, your users are given a sidebar where they can select all of the attributes that match their search. Once they hit search, they will get a list of results that will show them all of your items or services that include those factors.

Dynamic filters are frequently used to curate large amounts of items and services. Due to this, they are typically not used on their own. Instead, a menu bar might be built across the top of the page, urging the user to pick a category. Once the category is picked, the dynamic filter is added to the page’s side with a listing of all of the appropriate possibilities to the right.

When your clients and end users want to browse and/or when they aren’t exactly sure what they are looking for, dynamic filters can make a big difference to what they see. This type of navigation gives your clients a large amount of information while making it very easy for them to see what you offer that maybe of interest to them.

However, you also need to remember that you are looking at the most complex type of navigation system. This is a system that will drain memory and resources unless you are careful. The type of sorting and browsing that comes with this type of navigation system can be an enormous drain on your website. It’s important to be very sure that this is the kind of navigation you need before you make the commitment.

Earlier, you learned how you can use text, text and pictures or text, pictures and descriptions to make the navigation simpler for your end user. Now, you’ve learned how to gravitate towards the right navigation system for your website.

Ultimately, the navigation system you choose should be the simplest one you can get away with!

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