Usability Guidelines: Navigation

July 26, 2017

Navigation is an essential element of a website whether it consists of one page or many.

There are many aspects of navigation, but they all need to handle two questions from the user, "Where am I and how do I get to...?"

Site Structure
How individual pages are arranged and linked to one another. Is the hierarchy narrow and deep, or wide and shallow? What works best with your audience and content?
Header and Footer
Which pages of the website will be linked in the header versus those in the footer. Will the header navigation be concise? And should there be fat footer showing additional links?
Local Navigation
How pages are linking to each other outside of the global navigation. Is there enough content to justify using local navigation? Does its placement aid the user?
Breadcrumb Navigation
A contextual set of links showing the user's location with the site's structure. Is your content organized in a way that makes breadcrumbs useful? If so, should their function be location-based or path-based?
Pagination
How large amounts of content or data are handle, i.e. 100 records split into 10 pages of 10.
Action Sequences
A series of pages as part of an activity. How many steps is the checkout process? Can the user see where they are in the sequence?
In-Page Anchors
Links that do not take the user to another page, but to a specific point on the same page. Can the user see that the link will jump them to another spot on the page? Are they being overused?
Anchor Geometry
How the interactive elements are shaped. Are links big enough for touch interaction? What happens on a desktop screen?
Functionality
How the various navigation elements behave. Do dropdown menus activate on hover? How many levels deep do the menus go?

By answering these questions as part of a full analysis, a UX designer will have a clear picture of what happens when the user asks, "Where am I and how do I get over there?"