Website Navigation is a top priority for any site.
Because it is the thing that can either help a user to find relevant information or make him leave with disappointment.
But in web navigation the rules are silent. You can make it clear and intuitive or layering and unconventional.
Web-development studio Umbrella is here to answer all your questions.
But first things first.
WHAT IS WEB NAVIGATION?
Web navigation is a system of software tools and visual means which help users to know where they are at all times and provide them the necessary information.
WEB NAVIGATION PLANNING
Three pillars the most effective web navigation leans on are:
- Structure: website navigation starts with the detailed design of the Information architecture (IA), that provides optimal access to a site and arranges the content from a user’s perspective. Ideally, IA consists of a minimum number of navigation layers and provides access to the desired website section in just a few clicks. Yet the website section division must be clear, logical and predictable.
- Minimalism: efficient web page navigation is always simple and user-friendly. Add only those elements to your menu design that are essential for the effective communication. The key to success is a menu bar consisting of a minimal number of equal sections that eliminate any error.
- Design: when selecting a design focus on readability, integrity, and harmony. Opt for the standard elements: the intricate system of icons, buttons, and shortcuts is a bad idea that can backfire on your site’s aesthetics and usability. The simpler the web design navigation, the bigger amused audience.
TRENDS IN WEB NAVIGATION DESIGN
Web design is highly versatile however some of its forms have gained more traction than the others. Umbrella has chosen 10 examples of website navigation design that looks like a great option. Each of them has its own benefits and drawbacks, but which one is the best? It’s totally up to you.
1. HORIZONTAL NAVIGATION
Horizontal type is a classic design that combines usability and functionality.
- Natural solution for a standard orientation of the majority of screens;
- All the elements are active and accessible at once;
- You can expand the main menu bar options by use of drop-downs in just a tap or a click.
- Large number of website sections and mega drop-downs can interfere with the important content;
- Addition of new menu options is complicated.
2. VERTICAL NAVIGATION
Vertical navigation is an obvious alternative to a horizontal one, where the menu is situated at the left side of the page. Basically, vertical and horizontal designs are interchangeable and sometimes complementary. The choice between them is based on personal preferences and intention of content.
- Simple editing and unlimited menu expansion make it a perfect choice for complex multifunctional services and e-commerce sites;
- First choice for mobile devices.
- It can interfere with the content in expanded mode;
- Lower discoverability of elements at the menu’s bottom.
3. SLIDE-OUT MENU
Slide-out menu is one way to save both full navigation capacity and screen real estate. The menu bar (or side drawer) is hidden beyond the left edge of the screen and revealed only upon the user’s action.
- Very compact arrangement of website’s content;
- Design can be adaptive and in combination with hamburger-icon makes a great choice for mobile web browsing;
- Slide-out menu makes users focus on the content rather than on anything else;
- Access to the menu is available from any website’s point.
- Hidden navigation is less discoverable;
- It can interfere with the content in expanded mode.
Landing page is a task-optimized single-page website with long or infinite scrolling.
- Scrolling is faster than clicking – a good fit for news services, online stores, and real-time websites;
- Long or infinite scrolling holds users’ attention;
- It is highly suitable for websites with a large volume of visual content;
- User-friendly design for the mobile web.
- Restrained user’s freedom: you can’t control the order of information and way for representing content;
- No footer;
- Higher server load;
- SEO drawbacks.
5. FIXED NAVIGATION
Fixed or sticky navigation is a type of the menu bar that doesn’t disappear when you’re scrolling down: it is attached to a certain part of the page and provides access to the menu at all time.
- Menu is accessible from any website’s point – great choice of design for a landing page;
- Brand awareness can be built with a company logo appropriately inserted into the header;
- SEO is improved by increasing the number of web pages being viewed for a single visit.
- Overwhelmed and annoying header is non-userfriendly and able to block the content.
6. HAMBURGER MENU
Hamburger menu is a type of menu initially designed for smartphones but now it’s used for all browsers and devices with ever-increasing frequency. The three-parallel-horizontal-lines icon (displayed as ☰) usually found at the top right or left corner of the page hides a wide range of options and categories. The icon has the resemblance to the 3 layers of a hamburger – that’s where it derived its name from.
- The menu functionality is boosted by hiding a large number of options behind the icon;
- The menu is constantly available from any website’s point;
- Large number of options;
- As an additional menu arranges secondary options (history, settings, payment) a screen or a user being overwhelmed.
- Low discoverability: despite being frequently used some users still have problems with hidden menu identification so it is recommended as a secondary menu;
- Hamburger menu is a de facto symbol to start the site exploring on Android, but on iOs it is not that popular and leads to clashing with basic iOs navigation elements that might overload the menu bar.
7. RESPONSIVE NAVIGATION
Responsive navigation is a variable design that serves all devices with the same code automatically adjusting for screen size.
Source (full version)
Source (mobile version)
- Cross-platform compatibility;
- Single URL: you don’t have to create a separate mobile version of the site and no redirection means higher SEO.
- Desktop’s typical active elements (embedded maps, videos, animated elements) slows the page load time down on mobile platforms;
- Mobile audience prefer narrower set of functions than desktop audience for which reason mobile version of site’s design can be unreadable and overloaded;
- No alternatives: if you have a separate mobile version you can always return to a full version of the site. It’s impossible for a separate mobile version. If a responsive design is inconvenient or hides a crucial element of navigation the only solution is to find a desktop or switch to a competitor.
8. MEGA MENU
Mega Menu is a large menu panel that pops-up when tapping or pointing a mouse cursor over the necessary menu section.
Mega menu sorts the content by groups and columns use different visual means.
- All the options are accessible at once: quickest possible user’s direction make the mega menu a perfect choice for online stores with a bevy of options, categories, and services;
- It pops-up and pops-down upon the user’s action.
- the illogical content division comprises the whole system;
- it’s difficult to be implemented on mobile platforms.
9. FAT FOOTER
Footer is the bottom of a website. Standard footer contains contacts, links, copyright notice and social media icons. Fat footer includes a fully-featured navigation system and used as a primary or secondary menu. The fat footer is a simple way to go off an ordinary design and extend functionality.
- Fat footer provides alternative or additional menu for those who struggle to find necessary information on the main menu;
- Important but unclassified content can be conveniently placed in the fat footer;
- Additional options in the traditional footer with contact information help to generate leads;
- Specific information or sections are highlighted.
- Footer is often unnoticed.
10. FULL-SCREEN NAVIGATION
That’s the case when navigation is the design. Unlike the other menu examples chosen by Umbrella, the full-screen navigation menu isn’t set to save the screen real estate. Quite the contrary, combining text and graphics it uses an intro-page a hundred percent.
- This design guarantees a well-defined structure of the site;
- Lots of space to designers;
- Overloaded intro-page compensates the screen real estate in other sections which remain free of navigation elements (apart from a hamburger or a “menu” button);
- Full-screen menu is often responsive and simply built for a mobile platform;
- Perfect choice for a task-based website.
- Lower loading speed;
- Analyze your content: it might be a wrong choice for the websites requiring many navigation moves.
And traditional Umbrella’s bonus – one extra example of website navigation design – ANIMATED NAVIGATION ELEMENTS.
Rational use of animated elements as primary or secondary navigation aids can diversify a conservative design and draw users’ attention.
Animated elements highlight basic features and can improve the usability of hidden or controversial menus without limiting their option.
- Animated elements draw user’s attention;
- Better website aesthetics;
- Simple animation navigates users throughout the website.
- Undue visual elements complicate the navigation;
- Animation slows the website load time.
At the stage of planning and development, it’s difficult to predict what design will work. The success of each specific case depends on several factors: business mission, objectives and goals, target audience and your personal preferences.
The examples presented reveal just a fraction of what modern web design can offer. Any questions left? Contact Umbrella and we turn your boldest dreams into reality.