Working With Navigation System in a Web Development Project

Posted on September 20, 2011 by

On most web sites, the navigation system is placed at the top of the page or along the right or left margin of the webpage. When your site is bigger than just a few pages, all or some of navigation components might serve as triggers to open a submenu to other navigational links or as a way to go their respective pages.

Most submenus are pop up, drop down or fly out to any side of the navigation system. The way a navigation system works is determined by the technology used, such as CSS, DHTML, Flash, Java applets or JavaScript.

Always talk with the client about how the navigation system should work and always provide examples of sites that you can easily refer to when explaining which navigation system you believe could work well for your client’s goal. Of course, your client may have a different idea about how his site should function and they may even give you a URL of a site that they like. Whether you can or are willing to create a similar navigation system is another matter, however. When looking at others’ navigation system, you should look at the source code carefully and see whether you should use the same underlying technology, for example, if the reference site uses Flash as the underlying technology for the navigation system, will you also use Flash or will you use Java applet instead? Sometimes figuring out certain aspects of the navigations system can’t be done quickly enough, as the result you may need to suggest to your client a workable alternative. Not all fancy web elements are built using complex programming language, for example, you can create cross-browser menus with multilevel structure using HTML, Javascript and CSS, instead of Java Applet. It means, all the hard work of rendering the navigations system will be performed on the user’s computer instead on the server, which is a sensible thing to do because even a today’s low end computer is strong enough to handle complex client-side programming. Developers may try to use free menu generators that are based on JavaScript or a more complete commercial version that costs less than $100. For example, a useful product called CooljsMenu allows you to quickly create customizable, cross-browser, drop down menus. This will save you plenty of time and money, however, if you need to tweak the generated navigation system a little, you may need to hire a skilled Javascript and CSS whiz.

If the situation demands it, don’t be afraid to deviate a little from the commonly-accepted navigation concepts, you are used to seeing. Each web development project is like a puzzle and you should carefully put all the pieces together. When all the pieces are in place, your client’s goals are achieved, the contents are properly displayed, the site matches the preferences of the market segment and all considerations have been implemented.

For example, a client who is a photographer and wants to showcase his photo galleries may consider the traditional fly out and drop down navigation wouldn’t be appropriate for the site’s design, because it will obscure the photographs. Additionally, the client may have a strong philosophy on the how a web design should be created. Web design should follow the principles of Japanese aesthetic, which place a priority on the interaction of individual elements as the designer build a unified entity. The basic idea is, to appreciate the beauty of a forest; you should first understand the beauty of each individual leaf. For example, if the photographer specializes on images of people, each webpage should represent an individual. But if the whole site is viewed together, the visitors should have a unified vision on human being as a general. Hopefully, visitors can come up with different view of how they should see people on Earth. A good site should enrich the visitors’ experience instead of becoming the end of the journey.

When designing a navigation system, you should do it cleanly and with simplicity that prioritizes on balance. The navigation bar should only take up just enough room, allowing other elements of the web page to expand and develop. For the footer links, you can mirror the navigation system structure to help visitors to go to other parts of the site without the need to scroll all the way up to the top navigation.

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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