From a web design perspective, the navigation bar is one of the most important elements on each page. Think of it as the guide to sending users in the right direction no matter what they want to do, or where they want to go. Without a navigation bar, they would be completely without a means of getting around your website.
You have the ability to design your navigation bar in any format you like. Some traditional and not-so-traditional methods include:
- Having the Navigation Bar in the Header Section of the Website
This is probably the most common of all navigation bar locations, which means it should be your first consideration on all your website designs. Most users are accustomed to looking in the upper quadrant of their computer screen and seeing a navigation bar. In this position, you can ensure the navigation bar remains locked in place, even when the user scrolls to the bottom of the page.
- Having the Navigation Bar on the Left or Right Side
A navigation bar on the side of the page is a little unusual, although not entirely unheard of. The only problem is that it may feel uncomfortable for the majority of your website users. Remember that you want an intuitive design most of the time, and a sidebar navigation may not always feel intuitive to your visitors.
- Having the Navigation Bar in Some Other Capacity on Your Website
This could be “floating” navigation buttons, or perhaps a navigation bar in an unorthodox place. Be very careful about straying from the tried-and-true type of navigation bar. You may design a website that looks creative and gets tons of accolades from your peers, but at the end of the day, it also has to convert and make sense for users.
- Having a Hamburger Menu Instead of a Traditional Navigation Bar
The hamburger menu style of navigation bar is more popular than ever on mobile sites. A hamburger menu is usually three parallel lines “sandwiched” together. By pressing on the “hamburger,” the user gets a list of navigation possibilities which can then be tapped.
In addition to these types of navigation bars, you can add elements to encourage easier navigation, such as drop-down tabs on the navigation bar, and tabs that change color when hovered over. It’s a good idea to explore other websites to see which ones will work best for your web design and intended audience.
Having a Great Nav Bar Can Boost Your Analytics
Because navigation bars give site visitors an idea of where they can go, they are invaluable for boosting conversions and other pertinent analytics. This means you have to determine the flow of the navigation tabs very carefully. You should also consider the language you use on the navigation bar menu. In general, you want to stick to simplified words and phrases, such as “Contact Us,” “About Us,” and “Services.” These are commonly used on most websites, and they will make visitors feel comfortable.
As for pages deeper in your website, you may want to get more specific. For instance, if your website is an ecommerce site, you may find that your navigation tab begins with “Products,” then goes to “Toys,” and then “Dolls.” This leads the visitor neatly through a series of transitions in just a few clicks.
Overall, your navigation bar should always answer questions, not create new ones. The last thing you want is for site visitors to give up because they can’t find what they want. It’s up to you to figure out what they are probably going to want, and make it simple for them to achieve their objectives rapidly.
The Hunt for the Perfect Navigation Bar
Does the perfect navigation bar really exist? Or is it in the realm haunted by Nessie and Big Foot?
While there isn’t one type of navigation bar that’s ideal for every situation, your best bet is to choose the one that’s likely to work best for your target user population. Then, test it with some of your honest friends who fit your target audience. The feedback you receive will be invaluable in making sure your navigation bar is exactly what you need.