A familiar place.
Put the navigation bar where people expect to fine one--at the top or along the side. That's what you find on most websites. You can get clever and try an arrangement along the bottom or even down the middle between two columns, but you'll confuse people. You're going against the recognizable standard. Don't confuse people in the name of creativity.A consistent place.
Put the navigation bar in the same place on each page. Don't put it at the top of one page, and down the side on another. I prefer designing with the main navigation bar across the top.
Look at the navigation bars for the biggest sites and biggest companies: Apple, Microsoft, CNN, Yahoo, IBM, you-name-it. These companies could spend untold thousands of dollars implementing any kind of navigation bar they want. But what do they end up with? A navigation bar along the top or side. That's what web surfers find most familiar, so that's what they use. Do what makes users comfortable.Put a link to your home page on every page.
If the person gets lost in your site, they can always find their way "home." It would also be good if they can always get to the "Contact" page.
Many websites include a few links in the upper right, and you might find the Contact link there. That's the case with this website. Textual Links Vs. Image Links
Submenus in Navigation
- When designing a navigation bar, give preference to textual links, as opposed to image links (if you can select the text with your cursor, it's a text link). Some people disable images in their browsers to make pages load faster, in which case they can't even see an image-based navigation bar.
- Text links help search engines index your site. (The UB.org website uses image links in the navigation bar. This site uses text links.)
- If you use images in your main navigation bar, you'll want to use textual links at the bottom of the page. If those images don't load, the textual links provide a sure-fire backup.
Many navigation bars have submenus. Sometimes, it seems like the designer tries to fit every page on the site into a submenu. A drop-down submenu item may itself have a submenu which pops out to the side (like this shot from the IBM site).
Sometimes these submenus work well. But other times, they cause frustration. You try to navigate through the submenus, your cursor gets off-track...and it all disappears. You're forced to start over.
Look at the menu for the Apple
site (above). The navigation bar across the top of the page has seven items. None sports a submenu. The navigation bar aspire to be a complete sitemap. Instead, it just gets you to a section of the website which is closer to what you're looking for. There, you'll find further links, the kind which could have gone into submenus. Yes, it means going through an extra page. But at least it works!
That's what I prefer. And that's how this site is designed. The navigation bar works as a general directory, pointing you to a section of the website.