Website navigation is a user’s interactive road map to your web site. Website navigational elements help users find information so they know where they are and how they can complete tasks. There are three main categories of navigation (hierarchical, global, and local) and over 20 different types and techniques to use. In this article, we will be discussing some of the most common types of navigation to consider during the web services architecture process of web site planning.
Embedded links primarily show up within the main content of a page. On the web, pages are created around one topic that might relate to many other topics. When referencing other topics within a web site during web services architecture, it’s important to link to those other topics in case users are interested in learning more about them. For example, your services page might give a general overview of your services and then provide a list of links that have the name of your other services.
Breadcrumb trail navigation is a link based navigation that shows the path you traveled to arrive at a particular page. For example, you might start on the homepage, click to a product category page, click to a product subcategory page, and then click to see a specific product. As you navigate to the final product page, a link trail appears (typically above the main content) that shows the pages previously visited. It might appear something like this: Home > Category Name > Subcategory Name > Product Name. Each of these would be clickable so a user could quickly go back.
Primary navigation is the global linking system that generally appears at the top or left side of the web page. There are many different styles of primary navigation such as drop-down menus, tree menus, horizontal menus, and vertical menus. Consider which of these will best suit the overall look you want to achieve during web site planning, keeping users in mind.
Tab Navigation is a menu system that helps categorize content specific to one page. Tab navigations are often used to organize a few types of content that are related to the main theme of that specific page. Tabs help simplify the reading and length of information presented on the page so users don’t have to scroll as much.
Site Map is one page that shows all of the information available to the user on the web site and how it’s categorized. Often times, this page will look a lot like a family tree where users can see the parent/child relationships. An example of a parent would be a main category and the children would be the subcategory pages listed underneath. Site maps are very useful for search engines as they are able to find the links to all of your internal web site pages from one page.
Taking the time to create interactive road maps during web site planning using embedded links, breadcrumb trail navigation, primary navigation, tab navigation, and a site map will ensure a successful user friendly web site that visitors will enjoy.