Navigation tools on the web are the links used to navigate from one web page to another.
Navigation tools vary considerably from one website to the next. Well-organized websites include a variety of navigation tools ensuring you can easily understand the structure of the website, and find you way from page to another. Poorly designed websites may require that you use the “Back” button on your browser toolbar, or retype the primary domain of the website to return to the homepage when you lose track of your location. Because of this, navigation tools can be thought of as both the links on a web page, and the overall structure of the website since both inform the way visitors navigate from one page to the next.
Frequently Asked Questions
There are least five different types of navigation tools used by many websites:
- Navigation Bar: Many websites have a bar of links to the main areas of the website located at the top of every webpage. This bar includes links to primary pages like “Home”, “Shop”, “About”, “Contact Us”, and product and service feature pages. One current trend in web design is for the navigation bar to remain at the top of the webpage even as a visitor scrolls down to view content further down the page, ensuring the visitor always has easy access to the main navigation links. The primary navigation menu is often mirrored and expanded in the footer of a webpage.
- Text Links: As you read content on a webpage you will sometimes see embedded links. These links are hyperlinked text used to recommend additional resources that might be useful, or to provide a link to the source materials used to develop the content.
- Breadcrumbs: On some websites, you may see a series of words in a row that show the hierarchy of pages that were used to reach the page you are currently on. This heirarchy is called the page breadcrumbs. In the case of this page, the breadcrumbs look like this: Learn the Net > The Interactive Glossary > Navigation Tools.
- Sitemap: A sitemap is a heirarchical list of all of the web pages on a website. Some sitemaps are designed purely for use by search engine spiders and are not very easy for a human visitor to make sense of, while others are designed to be usable by both spiders and website visitors.
- Pop-up Menus: Many websites cannot be adequately navigated by a single layer of menus. In these cases, secondary menus remain hidden until a visitor performs an action, such as allowing the mouse pointer to hover over an element in the primary menu, or selecting an element in the primary menu on a mobile device. Once this happens, the secondary menu, sometimes called a drop-down, pop-up, or flyout menu, will appear and provide additional options.
Every website implements navigation tools based on the content available at the website and the website's conversion goals. While most website's make use of most or all of the five navigation tools mentioned, there are many additional ways for a website to provide for navigation of the site. For example, blogs will often have an additional menu listing the most popular articles on the site, long-form posts often have a clickable table of contents that can be used to navigate through the content located on the page, and portfolio style website often use small images to link to pages showcasing specific projects.