by Mark Monciardini of DesignsByMark.com
(This article is reprinted with permission from Mark Monciardini of DesignsByMark.com)
There are all types of navigation you can have on your website. Choosing the appropriate kind is what you need to look at. Navigating through pages can sometimes be clean and simple, exciting, pleasant, animated, fun and more. But using the right navigation for your website is whatís important. I was viewing a website the other day that was an Interactive Multimedia company. Their navigation was fully interactive with things moving around and sounds coming out. It was the perfect type of navigation for their company and it communicated a real feel of what interactive media is all about. But, letís say you need to make a website that deals with Lawnmower Blades. How much interest do you think the buttons will be to an old farmer that just got his Internet connection? What type of point will you want to give the farmer when he visits your page? Remember that a desire to continue
navigating the site is what we want to achieve. Having pointless graphics and clutter moves the viewer away. We donít want this. We simply need to have what the farmer wants, and a way to give it without having him move through any tall grass. Basic, clear navigation will suffice for our friendly farmer.
Itís not necessary to have an icon or graphic on every button. Only use a navigating icon or clip art graphic if it leads to a better understanding of your button label. Otherwise itís not necessary. When using icons, try and make sure they are recognizable to the user. Things like a telephone for contacting, a printer icon to print the page, magnifying glass for searching, envelope to send e-mail and so on. Think about images that donít need a label to be an understood. If you are making icons, take a simplistic approach that even a little kid could recognize. Complex icons and buttons are also more work when it comes time to update the page. This can cost you money and more time that you may not have. The larger your site is the more simplistic it should be.
Think About The User
Fun looking navigation shouldnít be the main key to creating interest. A valuable website always focuses on quality information first and great design second. Put your efforts into your site content instead. The load time on the bells and whistles can make the user impatient after the third or fourth visit. Most of the time they want the page to just load so they can get in and get out. Always think about the rush the visitor might be in, maybe a convenient jump-to menu. Remember: Fast, easy and convenient.
What ever you choose, always think about the end user. Have a friend, your Mom, Grandma or even your dog try it out and have them give you an honest response on how it feels to them. Even if you think youíre totally sure that itís perfect, we can become blinded by our own sense of accomplishment and can miss out on whatís really important. Try and maintain a reliable navigation style. Your navigation should have a consistent look and feel with the links placed in the same spot throughout your web site. Visitors will find it much easier to find their way around your website.
If you are designing a page for a client and they donít like this kind of simple navigation and insist you make them green/purple buttons with flashing lights, then make subliminal messages in their graphics that say "we are retarded" "we have goofy faces". Make it look a little sloppy too. (just kidding) But as a professional web designer it is up to you to inform your client of good and bad navigational habits. The web is full of poorly designed sites.
Garden.com is a great example of good navigation and great body language. This site gets repeat visitors on a daily basis and has a community, online products and even a magazine. Sites like this one have high traffic and need to have straight forward navigation, almost to the point where the visitor shouldnít have to even think about where to look. Iím sure the designers could have done a much more jazzy, cool design but they didnít and did what was appropriate for the site. The front page also has another section of buttons to the right. They separate from the other buttons so that each one deals with a different area of importance, which helps to differentiate from the other sections. The main navigation has the highest impact to the user and is the main focus directly under the visual communication.
Notice that the buttons donít look like goofy flowers but instead the site has a simplistic visual approach that gives you a real sense of visiting a colorful garden. Below the navigation is a nice high contrast special offer or new feature that delivers an "in your face" approach that keeps the regular daily visitors on their toes while still grabbing the attention of newcomers.
Garden.com is one of my favorite sites.
Thanks to Garden.com Public Relations for letting me share their beautiful web page.