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The 5 Principles of Effective Navigation when you create a personal web page



When you create a personal web page a website's navigation is one of its most important parts. Sure, your users mostly come in through search engines now instead of via your homepage, but when you create a personal web page how can they get from whatever page they're on to any other page they might want to go to? When you create a personal web page the limited space available at the top and sides of most web pages (at least when compared to the amount of content many contain) makes good navigation design difficult, but vital. Here, then, are five principles of effective navigation when you create a personal web page


1. Don't Be Original.


What? Don't be original? What kind of advice is that? Well, if you spend any time visiting sites on the web, you should realize that it's better advice than it might sound when you are about to create a personal web page.


Let's say you've just landed at some website for a search. You read a bit, you're interested, but you'd like to know more about what this website is and why it's here – basically, can you trust it? Most visitors will look around for a navigation link called 'about', 'about us', or something similar. When you create a personal web page calling this link something else – 'philosophy', for example – will only confuse your visitors, and make them less able to find what they're looking for. When you create a personal web page however much you might dislike the conventions of the web, you have to accept that we're stuck with them at this point, at least if you want your website to be as usable as it can be.


2. Clicking the Logo Always Goes Home.


As a corollary to the above advice, when you create a personal web page it is extremely important to make sure that clicking your website's logo will take a visitor back to your home page. When you create a personal web page remember that people treat the logo-home link as a lifeline in the same way that they do the Back button: you break it at your peril.


3. Always Include Search.


When you create a personal web page remember that visitors can't be bothered to search through your menu systems for what they're looking for, especially if you have a large website. This fact makes it all the more important that you provide a search box right there on the navigation bar. When you create a personal web page avoid a link that says 'search' – an actual input box where your visitors can type, with a button next to it labelled 'Search'.


People have been to enough websites to know what to do with a box like that, to the point where they even get upset if they can't find one. When you create a personal web page make sure that pressing the enter key after typing in the box takes them to the search results page.


4. Highlight on Hover.


When someone is hovering over part of your navigation system, you need to highlight the option they've got selected, so that they know where they are. When you create a personal web page remember that every non-web navigation system you've ever used no doubt does this, so there's no reason why websites shouldn't. When you create a personal web page you don't want your visitors to be guessing what their clicks are about to do – you want them to be absolutely certain.


This principle is even more important in navigation that has more than one level (that is, where you can follow an arrow to get to a sub-menu). When you create a personal web page you've got to keep both the name of the sub-menu and the selected item on the sub-menu highlighted: if you don't, visitors are likely to forget which sub-menu they selected, or not realise that  they accidentally selected the wrong one.


5. Use Breadcrumbs.


Finally when you create a personal web page, if you have pages nested deeply in a navigation hierarchy, make sure you offer 'breadcrumbs' to let visitors know where they've come from. For example when you create a personal web page, a set of breadcrumbs for this article might look like this:


Articles > Web Design > Navigation > The 5 Principles of Effective Navigation


In this case, clicking on 'Articles', 'Web Design' or 'Navigation' would take you to indexes for those categories, containing sub-categories and perhaps more articles. When you create a personal web page if you require examples of breadcrumb navigation in action, take a look at the big search directories like dmoz.org and yahoo.com.

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