Choosing The Right Navigation System For Your Site

Posted on October 7, 2011 by

When choosing the right navigation system for your site, you should go back to your site map, the architecture of your site. By referring back to your site’s organization and structure, you can choose the best navigation system for your site. For example, your site may be small and only have six main navigation links, if this is the case, you have more opportunity to be creative with your navigation system. However, if your site has twelve links and each has another sub-navigation links; it is likely that your navigation will go deeper in the future. Consequently, you should consider using CSS and Javascript more intensively. To get an understanding of the best navigation system for your site, you should review your site organization and structure. You should organize all pages based on the appropriate categories.

These are three types of links that you may use in your website:

*  Main navigation links: These represent your main pages, including main product categories, such as About and Contact. Your visitors should be able to access all main pages easily through your navigation system.

*  Subnavigation links: Hierarchically, these represents child pages that you can access through a main page. These pages are subcategories of your main products or topics categories. For example, your Contact Us page may contain a map and contact information pages for each branch office. Commonly used methods are pull-down and pop-up menu. Some sites use sidebar that appears when the user click a main navigation link.

*  Non-navigational links: Some webpages don’t have to be included in the main navigation links, but still should be easily accessible somewhere in the footer areas. These links could be Site Credits, Privacy Policy or Site Map pages.

Things to consider

Other than the organization of your site, these factors could influence the type of navigation you should use for your site:

*  General usability: You should have an acceptable level of general usability. The menu must be intuitively easy to use and read, which include meaningful and concisely written labels. It should behave and be positioned uniformly throughout your site.

*  Target audience: The type of visitors you’re targeting can influence the simplicity or the complexity of your navigation type. For example, if you’re selling products for seniors, you should consider using simple, larger fonts in your navigation system. If your visitors are young, educated people, you could do well with more complex navigation system.

*  Expandability: Refer to your long-term plan, do you want to expand your site regularly? Due to the developments in the industry, many sites continuously expand their navigation system. For example, product review sites often add new main navigation links each year due to frequent releases of new products. Even if your site’s main topic seems to be rather static, you should prepare enough room to grow. However, if you are involved in a dynamic industry, you should use technologies that allow for easier expansion, for example, CSS-styled list menus instead of Javascript rollover menus.

All sites, whether they have 5 or 500 pages, should offer a way that allows people to move very easily among webpages. Hypertext links are the simplest and most straightforward page, all you need is the URL of your destination. Although these links are very accessible and extremely functional to almost all web-enabled devices and visitors, your brand-new site could be mistaken as a relic from 1995. It won’t hurt to use some images, Javascript and CSS techniques to spiff your site up a bit. Despite the added complexity, your navigation should still serve its main function well, which is to provide the fastest route to important pages in your site. You should discuss with your client about the location of the navigation system, relative to your content. If the site is relatively complex and require plenty of subnavigation, you may need to allocate a separate team to work only on developing the navigation system.

Wide or Deep?

To further assist in determining the best navigation system, you should take heart the basic principles of web navigation. Your audience should be able to easily and quickly find what they’re looking for at the fewest amount of clicks. You need to choose whether you want to go wide or deep.

*  Wide: Sites with wide navigation system place all the main navigation links in a single horizontal row. If you have a small web site with four or five main pages, this could be the ideal solution. However, if you have more than fifteen main pages, by using two rows of horizontal links, you may easily confuse your visitors. Wide navigation system can also be combined by a vertical list of side navigation. However, in some cases, a large number of main pages is caused by poor judgment in content organization. You should consider whether you do need to use more than ten main pages.

*  Deep: Webpages should be categorized by topics of similar interest to reduce the number of main navigation pages, which can be displayed vertically or horizontally. With deep navigation, you can help visitors to get refined information quickly. Sites with deep navigation system use drop down and pop up menus, some use menus that can fly out from the main navigation system. These are two categories of deep navigation system:

* Single-tier menus: The single-level menu shares some characteristics with wide navigation system. Because a main page won’t go deeper than one more level, you have more freedom in implementing single-tiered menus. You’re allowed to special graphic effects and fonts to get better aesthetic values. You can combine HTML, images, CSS Javascript and other programming languages to get the desired result.

* Multitier menus: With multitier menus, your site can be as deep as it’s needed. Each tier may have more submenus and links, visitors can access any page in your site by simply moving the mouse cursor and choose a webpage link. Due to the increased complexity, you should have a better understanding on your organization to properly construct a multitier menu.

About: This Article was Contributed by Raja. He is a Web Hosting industry watcher and writes regularly on Dedicated Hosting Reviews and Reseller Hosting Reviews.

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