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Where should navigation links appear on a website?

After reading our previous article, I would not disbelieve you if you told me you are shaking your head in disbelief.  Remember though, a website can be a creative medium in which freedom of expression can show itself, and though many business leaders and control editors, are probably wishing for that bus to come and run me over, there are no hard and fast rules as to where should navigation links appear on a website.

The main reason most website adopt either the horizontal, vertical, or a combination of the two, for a layout template, is that it is fairly logical, and fairly easy to understand, and easy on the eye. 

Depending on your site though, you could easily tear up the rule book and go for something completely different.  In a way, this is what wordpress has done, with the vertical links appearing on the right, and not on the left.  This has not damaged its reputation in the slightest, and in fact wordpress has won many plaudits for its easy of use, both from a provider, and reader point of view.

So before we take the wordpress ideal and embrace the spirit of adventure, lets look at why the three typical layouts are so popular, before we decide where should navigation links appear on a website.

If you take a general site that caters for a general audience for example, then these sites will almost certainly include the vertical navigation link layout.  This is a little like putting the links somewhere in the middle of the page.  Horizontal link layout systems may also be included, but if there is a lot of content that requires scrolling vertically, navigation is impaired for a horizontal navigation based layout, unless the links are reproduced at the bottom.

Horizontal navigation links come into there own, if there is little vertical scrolling required for the page.  It also looks far better to use horizontal navigation links, if drop down menus are going to be used.  This has the added advantage that other elements can be placed on the edges if you follow the general rule and not have content wider than 600 pixels. 

If your site however, is not a general use website, why not play around with the links.  Think outside of the box, think outside of horizontal and vertical. 

Perhaps the secret here is not so much presentation, but flow.  Think about what your audience would focus on, and place links where there eye would notice them.  Then construct the site to do the same throughout the navigation.  There is no need to think in straight lines where creativity is concerned. 

Try and ensure though that the links are easy to find.  The vertical and horizontal layouts are very good for this, and even if you have a site that looks spectacular, the links should be well thought out as well as being creative.  Remember, funky links are fine, but you’ll need a dedicated audience to stick with you, if they cannot find there way around.

I have a feeling though that it will all come together in your creative groove.  The link placements will be just as cool as the content, and will become part of it, as well as your overall message.  Is this the best element of web design?

In today’s business orientated world, as a designer in a commercial environment, you do have restrictions on your creativity, perhaps by experimenting outside of this sphere, could help you think outside of the box, especially where navigation is concerned.

The only thing I would say, is that when your site is up and running, try and ensure the links are shown at the bottom a page, when deciding where should navigation links appear on a website.

3 Responses to “Where should navigation links appear on a website?”
  1. Seo India

    One of the important things to consider would be to set up the links in a search-engine friendly manner. What this means is that:

    a) Your links should try to target specific terms from SEO perspective. So, for a chocolate business rather than naming a page as ‘Home’, you will be better off setting it as ‘Chocolate Home’.

    b) Horizontal links will always be read by the search engine bots before the vertical links. This affords an opportunity to optimize them. A well-optimized horizontal link can add SEO value to your site.

    c) If you are using images for horizontal or vertical links, please make sure that you set the ‘ALT’ tags for each of the images. This is especially useful if you have a flash site.

    d) If possible, consider using the text links over image links. And if you are decided on using image links, do make use of the ALT.


  2. Lola

    I think it depends on how much links there are. If there’s more than, say, 10, I prefer that they’re on the right side of the screen, horizontally.

  3. abyviduya

    I prefer to place navigation links on the right side too. But not on the upper side but on the middle or bottom right.

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