Navigation is a critical element of web design particularly when there is significant amount of content. If you will compare a website to a book, navigation is the “table of contents.” A book has page numbers and there is usually an index at the back to make it easier to sort through information. However, websites do not have page numbers; they have navigation buttons which when clicked will bring you to the desired page. This will ensure that a user does not get lost and confused when looking for information.
The principles of navigation design
Navigation should be focused on the user – it is always important to consider the user because they are the ones who will be navigating through the site. A web user who becomes confused and frustrated with navigation can easily transfer the search to another site. In order to determine the preferences of users, make a survey on how they want to navigate content.
There must be different navigation options – if you will look closely at websites, you will generally find navigation buttons at the top of the landing page. As you scroll to the bottom, you will find another set of almost the same navigation buttons but not as emphasized as those on the top of the page. Since no single navigation can satisfy all web users, give them a range of navigation options to choose from.
Web users must always know where they are – have you ever got lost in a website? It can happen if there are no clear indications of pages. For example, you are looking for ugly Christmas sweaters; how to order should be one of the prominent features. Usually, navigation is made of a different design from the rest of content and can be found in all the pages at the same place.
Let the users know where they have been – this is one of the reasons why navigation should be in hypertext instead of graphical form. With hypertext, when a link is clicked, it changes in color. Violet usually stands for those that have been clicked on while blue is used for un-clicked links.
Tell your users where they are supposed to go – the way to achieve this is to create classifications that are simple and self-explanatory.