A website’s navigation is a collection of user interface components. The primary goal of navigation is to help users find information and functionality, and encourage them to take desirable actions. Navigation components include global navigation, local navigation, utility navigation, breadcrumbs, filters, facets, related links, footers, fat footers, and so on.
When approaching a design or redesign project, it is important to take a look under the hood and start by defining or redefining the IA. The IA doesn’t need to be final before beginning to wireframe and prototype, but a first pass is necessary to get a handle on the volume and complexity of the content. Making navigation component choices based on looks alone can force you to change an ideal IA to something that doesn’t best serve the needs of users or accommodate your content.
Nielsen Norman Group
- Determine usage priority: How much will users rely on this navigation component? For example, will users primarily navigate the site using local navigation? Or are they likely to more heavily rely on related links?
- Determine placement: On which pages should navigation be present? Where should it be placed within the page layout grid (e.g., top, left, right, bottom)?
- Establish patterns: Which navigation design patterns best support findability and discoverability — tabs, megamenus, carousels, accordions, and so on?