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Re: [ia-55] Mega Dropdowns Good or Bad?

From: Jared S.
Sent on: Wednesday, May 22, 2013 12:37 PM
Hi Tom,

In most cases, mega menus are driven by the organization's desire to put a lot of stuff in front of the user all the time. However, if you watch users on the site, I'm going to bet that most of the time, they don't need or care about all that stuff.

Mega menus don't work well, despite what NNG wrote. 

- They require the user to play a game of hide and seek with the navigation. 

- They require the user to move their mouse just to see what their options are. (Navigation that doesn't require the user to move their mouse is always more effective.)

- They treat all the navigation as equally important. 

- They assume that what the user wants for navigation is the same no matter where they are in the site hierarchy.

- And they are often filled with crap the user doesn't want, making it hard to find the stuff they do want.

The best approach is to build the home page navigation last. Start with the navigation approach for an important page that's deep in the site. Ask yourself, what are the most likely things people will want to go to next. That's what the navigation should be *on that page.* 

Then pick another important page, and ask the same question. Keep doing that and you'll probably see that each page wants a slightly different navigation scheme.

This is a much better approach than trying to define a mostly useless persistent site-wide navigation approach.

That's my opinion.


On May 21, 2013, at 1:34 PM, Thomas Donehower, Dir UX at Xi wrote:


Was in a meeting with a client on Friday showing a redesigned website that used Mega-dropdowns. Client said the site looked nice, but that he felt persistent left or right navigation was more useable than mega-dropdowns. 

The marketing team at the client was pushing against persistent left or right nav because they said it made the site design feel dated. It does seem like it's fading ever since Jacob Neilsen published his article on the usability of megas. 

I was asked my opinion and said it basically depends on what the user is trying to do. If they're navigating to a section and most likely looking for one thing among many options, then mega-dropdown should be fine. However, if the user is navigating to a section and has the need to browse across sub-categories in that section then some sort of persistent navigation makes sense. 

Perhaps the best approach is not Either/Or but some sort of combination of the two schemes.

2 questions for the community:

1. What's your opinion of the usability of megas vs. old-school persistent left and right nav? 

2. Have you seen any other forms of persistent nav schemes beyond the traditional left and right that work well?



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