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Getting the Menu Bar Right

Creating the navigation system (menu bar) for your web site is more important than many people assume. It is often done poorly and many web site owners don't realize the huge negative impact that mistakes can have on results.

Let's take the common practice of putting the navigation for the site across the top of the page. At Back2Front, we do not encourage this (although it is very popular) for several reasons:

1) Only a small web site can fit all of pages' names across the top in one row – there is only so much space to work with. Since our clients stay with us for years, we often find that even if all the pages fit at first, the space at the top becomes too crowded as a web site grows over time. One of the options to solve this problem is to redesign the site to accommodate the new page.
Horizontal Navigation
As another solution to this problem, many web designers use JavaScript or Flash drop-down menus, as illustrated here, to fit more pages in the top menu. This is problematic for both search engine optimization and for user interface reasons:
Search Engine Optimization
Search engines have difficulty following drop-down-displayed links so they may not find and index pages that can only be reached in this manner. This will result in poorer SEO performance for your entire web site.
Drop-Down Menu
User Interface People have trouble using this sort of menu for two reasons:

1) It takes considerable skill to manoeuvre a mouse accurately enough to choose a desired link, especially when you're trying to reach tertiary or deeper-nested links.

2) The link disappears as soon as it is clicked. This is very bad for user interface since it makes it difficult to correct a mistaken selection and automatically removes the clues one needs to determine the location of the "arrived-at" page.

Placing the menu bar at the left side of the page is a much better option since there is much more room for items. All items can also remain on the page after they are clicked without risk of hiding the content underneath. To see what we consider to be the ideal navigational system for a web site of any size, have a look at our own web site, Back2Front.ca.