Web Site Planning: Suggestions and Guidelines

Step 5: Design a Site Navigation Plan

Now that you have identified the major content sections, fill them in from the content inventory. Once the content is labeled and sorted, you need a navigation system to help users travel throughout your site in such a way that they don't get lost.

At a conceptual level, you want your site navigation scheme to work on a gradient of complexity. High-level navigation milestones identify major sections of your site. As users move deeper towards specific content the navigation becomes more detailed and complex as the "distance" between milestones grows shorter.

The goal, regardless of the complexity involved is to create a "sense of place" for users, no matter where they are. A user-friendly approach to site navigation will enable users to answer the following:

  • Where am I? Users will never create a mental image of your site plan unless they know where they are at all times.
  • Where can I go from here? This is answered by visible navigation options and other links on the page.

If users cannot answer these questions to their satisfaction, there is a problem with your site organization scheme. More on navigation:

Suggestions for Navigation Elements

The navigation elements on a Web page should enable users to do two things:

  • Locate their current position
  • Plot a course through your site

We offer the following suggestions to help ensure your site provides users with the contextual clues they need to navigate confidently.

  • All pages should include the organization name.
    • Display your logo on every page and make it a link to your the home page. This is a common feature on most web sites.
  • The navigation system (tabs, topic lists, a menu of choices, etc.) should present the site structure clearly.
    • The major content categories are obvious milestones for your site's primary navigation elements.
    • Specific content areas should have a local navigation system to supplement the primary navigation.

More information:

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