The Hidden Logic Behind Navigation Options

The Hidden Logic Behind Navigation Options

View profile for David Gilroy
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Most large websites have three types of navigation:

  • Header-navigation which is the same on all pages of the site - these are usually simple drop-down menus with options presented in a single vertical list but sometime they can be mega menus (with more options presented in a block of parallel columns).
  • Section-navigation which is designed to provide the user with the options most relevant to the page they are on
  • Footer-navigation  which often replicates links presented in the header-navigation but in a more condensed form and usually also includes links to other important pages such as "sitemap" and "legal disclaimer".

Some sites also provide:

  • Related-content which some sites use to offer the user links which are NOT part of the current section but may yet be of interest
  • Crumb trail-navgation rarely necessary but some sites use this to remind the user where they are

You can consider your sitemap to be a hierarchical list of:

  • top-level sections (which appear in the top menu bar)
  • sub-sections
  • sub-sub-sections
  • ...and sometimes even sub-sub-sub-sections!

There is no special logic behind header-navigation or footer-navigation because it is the same on all pages, but there is special logic for section-navigation - on most websites that logic looks like this:

  • if the section you click on has children then show the children (i.e. the sub-sections below)
  • if the section clicked has no children then show brothers/sisters (i.e. the sections at the same level)

For example:

...this logic is so intuitive that the user usually doesn't appreciate that it's happening!