Primary navigation bars provide
shortcuts to main sections on a website and are displayed on most or all
pages. A "navigation bar" is a row or column of important links that anchors
each page, helping to keep the reader from getting lost.
Navigation bars or menus can
remain consistent throughout the site or can change on every page. The
most prevalent problems with navigation bars are due to menus that don't match the
user's expectation of the subject and a lack of contextual information,
which could be delivered in a few words if space was available. For instance,
users in a product section who see a navigation bar linking to customers
is likely to wonder what is meant by the word - is it a list of customer
references or login for existing customers?
Creating good navigation
on a larger website (more than about 7 pages) involves grouping your content
logically, so that your visitors will be able to find what they are looking
for. Viewers won't always start at the "home" page. They may
follow a search engine directly to an internal page, or they may follow
a link from another website, where the webmaster posted a link to information
somewhere on your site.
Navigation bars come in a variety of flavors:
A top menu or side menu on all pages directs the view around the website and enables them to maintain a sense of where they
are. Both of these are located on these pages.
A breadcrumb trail is a special
kind of navigation bar, featuring a hierarchical row of links (click Breadcrumb
above), each of which represents a "node" (a point at which the reader
makes a decision). A breadcrumb is usually found on the individual page and is not part of the menu structure.
A Frame Menu is a navigation
bar that is located on a separate side or top frame which remains while
the main page changes its content. This format has largely been discontinued in web design due to inherent problems
with search engines and navigation to internal pages.
A Button Menu is a navigation
bar that is a graphic image, rather than just text links. This enables
the sites graphic style to carry over to the menu.