Over the past years, there has been a lot of growth in web design features and trends. One such growing trend is website navigation. According to KoMarketing, when you land on a company website via a referral site, 50% of visitors will use the navigation menu to orientate or introduce themselves to your brand so you don't want to leave your visitors feeling confused or lost. Because of this, we are going to look at some website navigation trends for 2017.
These tips will work well for all types of websites.
1) Fixed Scrolling Navbars
Navigation is the action that helps visitors to your site get from a point A to point B. Before, the navigation bar would disappear when you scrolled a website. Now menu bars are becoming fixed. By having a fixed menu bar, you are enabling users to navigate the site from any location on the page. Furthermore, it is now easier to have this feature with CSS and jQuery plugins where the fixed bar is becoming a default on many themes. This fixed navbar is also really handy for mobile users. They now don’t have to swipe back to the top of the page just to browse further into a website.
There are a number of good reasons as to why you should be using this kind of tool on your website navigation:
1. If you have a lot of navigation items your user will have an easier experience on your website and UX (user experience) is extremely important in design.
2. It enables users to navigate quickly and therefore in turn keeps users on your website longer. If navigation takes takes too long they will lose patience and leave.
3. It will also help to increase your total page views
However, make sure the navbar doesn’t take up to much space. It shouldn’t be so large that it blocks major portions of the webpage content.
2) Universal Navigation
Many companies today work with or have multiple brands. If they are not related in any way then there is no reason to connect them and you could have different sites for each, however if they are related then it makes sense to look at universal navigation in your web design. Universal navigation is mostly used by companies with large networks and enables them to provide a menu structure for connecting related websites that each have their own global navigation. For structures like this it makes sense to keep a universal navigation on each page to draw attention to other areas related to the company.
A couple of guidelines to keep in mind when using universal navigation include:
a. Sites that contain several subsites should have a universal-navigation element on each subsite.
b. Make sure you keep focus on the subsite’s global navigation and don’t divert their main attention to the universal navigation. After all, if they are on that subsite then most likely they are interested in its content and should be able to navigate it easily to find what they are looking for.
c. Have a sense of hierarchy in place within the design especially if it displays two navigation bars.
d. Research has shown that placing the logo in the top left corner supports the navigation back to home much better, so it would be good to make sure you include the domain when using a link to the main site’s homepage.
e. You can list universal categories if you think that the user will benefit more from having an overview of the scope of the site scope or if they are likely to move between universal categories frequently when on the website.
f. Within the mobile design of the website make sure to deemphasize links to the universal home and universal categories. Space is more scarce here so it would be wasteful to fill it up with a navigation bar or menu.
Universal navigation is an element that many visitors may not use, but in saying this that is not its main goal. It is not there to attract clicks, but to provide clear structure to find things when people need to, after all you don’t want them to feel frustrated or lost when on your website otherwise they will simply go somewhere else.
3) Mega Menus
Another navigation feature for large sites that have a considerable number of pages for users to navigate is the use of a Mega Menu. An example site could be a magazine-style blog or news websites. With this type of navigation structure it is important to be as user-friendly as possible. While these mega menus can make it easier for visitors to navigate the content with fewer clicks, the vast numbers of links that are usually present in these types of websites can also overwhelm some users.
Mega menus don’t just flow down vertically; they contain multiple columns of content for each category in the navigation bar. For this technique to be used in the best possible way within the design, you must first, have enough content within your website to be placed within the menu design, because it will not be of any benefit to you to have empty spaces in your mega menu.
Also keep in mind that this kind of tool will be mostly useful on desktop websites and not on mobile versions. Large retailers, magazines websites and bloggers are the most common users of the mega menu design. Visitors can get a sense of their website and what their brand is about by being able to skim through related content placed in the menu.
Every website is different when it comes to working out the navigation structure and design, so have a good idea of the amount of content you have before seeing if a mega menu could work well or not for your business.
4) Vertical Sliding Navigation and Stacks
The majority of web navigation menus flow horizontally across the page and generally comes from traditional monitors being wider rather than taller. It is also what users are more used to seeing when they land on a website so navigation of any site is automatically familiar. However, vertical sliding navigation and stacks is really in vogue these days, especially on portfolio style websites or with creative agency sites that are trying to push the boundaries of web design. After all being creative in design and it catching on is what starts the trend in the first place. On a more practical side, we also have a lot more screen space these days, so it’s now possible for websites to use vertical navigation menus instead of horizontal.
Vertical navigation is fun and it can present some new ways to think about the website canvas and space, as it breaks from “the standard” style of navigation.
A couple of styles used in vertical navigation include:
a. The use of the hamburger menu is one of the styles used for vertical navigation and is really common in mobile design or responsive design for mobile.
b. The other style, which is more original, is with a two-column layout with navigation filling one of the column “containers”. This style provides you with a different kind of shape to work with for the main part of the website design.
Don’t be afraid to look at using vertical sliding navigation in your web design. There is nothing wrong with being curious and experimenting a little to help your brand ‘stand out from the crowd’ online and from your competitors.
5) Responsive Subnav Menus
There is no way to avoid mobile responsive navigation especially as searching on mobile is increasing year after year. At present many designers hide some of the navigation links on the mobile version to enable to menu to fit in more nicely. But a trend that is being to emerge is keeping all navigation items within dropdown menus with the use of hamburger navigation and toggle icons to open the dropdown menu links.
This technique of using responsive subnav menus is used mainly on mobile screens or in small browser windows and by keeping them in place you are giving your visitor better opportunity to browse around and to stay on your website longer. However, make sure that each sub-menu is clearly seen with either an icon, colour change or something visual so users know that by clicking or tapping they are able to open a menu item and onto a new page.
There are many more navigation trends we can look at, but regardless of the structure you use you must ensure that your navigation structures, when they are revealed on your websites, are clear and minimize any cognitive friction in the use of them by visitors. The primarily goal is about the sharing of information and facilitating tasks then focus on these goals being easy to achieve through clear navigation menus. Keep in mind where the visitor is, where they need to go and where they have been.