Overview of Web Design Navigation Styles
Guest post by: Miami Web Design
Navigation is the single most important thing to get right in any web design. It has to be quick, easy, and fit into the overall theme of the site. It‘s so important that we often spend as much time making sure it works, as we do designing the site. There are a few common design patterns that are used throughout the internet, as we are going to go over them now.
This is most often a horizontal bar running across the top, or near the top of a web page. The advantage of this navigation is it’s familiarity. It’s popularity is a self-perpetuating element. It’s popular because it’s used a lot, and it’s used a lot because it’s familiar to users.
It’s ideal for smaller sites, but can become a little cumbersome once you have to build child menus as drop-downs. Thought has to be given to where the site is going to be in a couple of years’ time when using this in a website design. A static site will be fine, but an ever-growing one may do better with a vertical navigational structure.
Vertical navigation is generally on the left side, so it’s often referred to as sidebar navigation. This structure is better suited to larger sites, as sub-menus just work better in this configuration. Care still has to be taken to not overwhelm the user with a bundle of links that fly out of the sidebar.
For sites with a large number of pages, using intelligent categories is a better way of keeping a lot of information available while not overwhelming the visitor. Website designs using vertical navigation can be seen all across the internet. Some of the biggest sites in the world use this configuration. Partly because they are big, and partly to give them room to grow.
Tabular navigation uses tabs, as the name implies. These are usually top horizontal, and work just like paper tabs. Clicking on a tab highlights it and brings up the page content. Much like top navigation, this method is more useful in smaller website designs.
It’s possible to have sub-menus with tabs, but they have to be of a different design. This can lead to confusion unless it’s abundantly clear that it’s happened.
Fly-out navigation is used a lot in ecommerce. Site’s that have a top navigational structure can use this method to contain many links as a sub-menu while keeping it clear to the visitor where everything is. Everything is easily accessible, and you can add a lot of links into the fly-out panel. It’s also very scalable, offering site owners the chance to expand the site as they see fit.
The main downside to this is that it isn’t always clear that the top menu contains a fly-out section. It also doesn’t always translate too well to mobile browsing.
There is no perfect navigation structure. The best kind of navigation is one that works with the website design, and the desired hierarchy.