How much of menu levels should you show?

26 Jan 2010 - 4:30am
2 years ago
8 replies
825 reads
Jonas Skoglund
2010

Hi all!
Usually when I designing a web site I always show the full hierarchical structure when someone drilling it self down to a sub page, pretty much like the Windows Explorer tree navigation. Like this for example when a surfer visits the page "Subservice item 1":
1. Home2. Services 2.1 Service Item 1 2.2 Service Item 1 2.2.1 SubService Item 1 2.2.1 SubService Item 1 2.2.1 SubService Item 1 2.3 Service Item 1 2.4 Service Item 13. Products4. About us5. Contact
This approach unfourtnually generates a pretty big menu that is seldom suiteble for horisonatal navigation. How much do you expose of the menu structure? Often I see web sites that just shows the top level menu making it hard to show the surfer where they are in the structure.

Best regardsJonas
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Comments

26 Jan 2010 - 9:26am
Bowen Hendy
2009

Don't make me think.. ;) Look up http://www.useit.com/ where you will find
plenty of research which has covered the options available to you here.

Regards,

B

-----Original Message-----
From: new-bounces at ixda.org [mailto:new-bounces at ixda.org] On Behalf Of Jonas
Skoglund
Sent: 26 January 2010 01:31
To: discuss at ixda.org
Subject: [IxDA Discuss] How much of menu levels should you show?

Hi all!
Usually when I designing a web site I always show the full hierarchical
structure when someone drilling it self down to a sub page, pretty much like
the Windows Explorer tree navigation. Like this for example when a surfer
visits the page "Subservice item 1":
1. Home2. Services 2.1 Service Item 1 2.2 Service Item 1
2.2.1 SubService Item 1 2.2.1 SubService Item 1 2.2.1
SubService Item 1 2.3 Service Item 1 2.4 Service Item 13.
Products4. About us5. Contact
This approach unfourtnually generates a pretty big menu that is seldom
suiteble for horisonatal navigation. How much do you expose of the menu
structure? Often I see web sites that just shows the top level menu making
it hard to show the surfer where they are in the structure.

Best regardsJonas
_________________________________________________________________
Hitta hetaste singlarna på MSN Dejting!
http://dejting.se.msn.com/channel/index.aspx?trackingid=1002952

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Reply to this thread at ixda.org
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19 Nov 2011 - 4:54pm
Josh Coe
2009

[redacted]

26 Jan 2010 - 5:14pm
Gayatri N
2009

Foodnetwork does a good job of showing horizontal navigation.

www.foodnetwork.com

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26 Jan 2010 - 6:33pm
Anonymous

Have you ever tried a navigation path? A breadcrumb as a secondary
menu applying a style to make it pretty for horitzontal design.

When a user visit the page you mention "Subservice item 1" will
found something like this:
1. Home 2.Services 3.Product 4.About Us 5.Contact

Home> Services > Service Item > Service Item2 > Subservice Item

You will get a clear navigation menu and a navigation path where the
user always know where is.

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26 Jan 2010 - 4:47pm
Anonymous

oh brilliant
'mega dropdowns' - I was looking for some information on these too.
Just the ticket!
thanks!

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26 Jan 2010 - 9:21am
Anand Shashidhar
2009

Although there is no hard and fast rule or agreed principle on how
many levels to show, the architecture of the menu tree should
probably be decided on the overall essence of the page and the grade
of users that it attracts.
If discovery is in itself an attraction, and convincing enough for
users to find their way, one level should do.
Another would be to have two levels of horizontal bars, with the top
bar displaying the main menu items, and the second bar displaying the
next level items of a selected main menu item. This context is pretty
intuitive, and manageable if the text can fit in well.
All the best :)

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27 Jan 2010 - 8:01am
Stefano Bussolon
2009

Dear Jonas,

I think you should divide the problem in two sub-problems:
* the way to structure the information;
* the way to show it on the web site.

On what concerns the structure, there is an interesting experiment
published by Kevin Larson and Mary Czerwinski: they explain that
breadth structures are more usable than depth ones. A 8x8 structure,
for instance, allows you to categorise as many as 64 items, and with
a 8x8x8 structure the count goes up to 512.

I therefore suggest you to organize your structure more in breadth
than in depth, if this is possible.

The second aspect is the navigation interface.
My first suggestion is to show, in home page, the full first and
second level. In an experiment made by my research group
(unfortunately it's published only in Italian) we found that showing
not only the actual level but also one level deeper increases the
information scent and allows the user to skip a step in finding the
item she is interested in.
The same approach could be adopted at the Category pages of the first
level (i.e. Services, Products ...) showing the second and the third
level of it's branch.

On what concerns the item pages (SubService Item 2.2.1), if you
choose the horizontal navigation, the solution suggested by Anand is
particulary clever: a row for each structure level.

Finally, to show the surfers where they are, you could use the
Breadcrumbs design pattern:
http://www.welie.com/patterns/showPattern.php?patternID=crumbs
http://ui-patterns.com/pattern/Breadcrumbs

Stefano

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26 Nov 2011 - 2:46pm
kathrynthomas
2010

Jonas, 

I ran into a similar issue when doing an IA restructure and redesign of Cornish.edu. However with such a large site, showing all navigation overloads the user. What we finally decided on was to display a "Quick Links" link on every page by the college's name/logo. The Quick Links is basically a mega menu that only shows two levels of navigation.

Once the user clicks further into the site, they are shown a sub navigation menu containing a heading (to display what page s/he is on), as well as up to two levels of navigation further. Breadcrumb navigation is displayed just above said sub navigation menus to show the path of how the user navigated to the page. It's worked beautifully for our communities with much feedback about how easy it is to find information.

Good luck!

Kathryn

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