Site navigation is a very important aspect when designing a website. This is because it determines if the visitor in the site will continue navigating the site or will navigate away. The navigation should be easy and not complex. One aspect that determines the success of a given website is the way its navigation has been designed.
Types of navigation structures
There are three categories of navigation structures, which are linear, hierarchical and web navigation (See Figure 1).
Figure 1: Three types of navigation structures
A website should use a navigation structure that fits the purpose and the size scale of the site. I will use two sites so that I have a better comparison and come up with a conclusion. The two websites are jcpenny.com and target.com. Both are large online retail stores.
Jcpenny.com navigation structure type
This site uses a modified hierarchical structure. This type of navigational structure shares elements with the web navigational structure. A basic hierarchical structure restricts the movement in the site to mere up and down unlike the modified type where lateral movement is allow; it allows users to view options for the same level under the same category.
The navigation structure elements are the elements that help the users to know where they are in the site. The jcpenny.com site makes use of breadcrumb menus (Figure 2).
Figure 2: Navigation structure elements
Figure 3: Non-descriptive hidden breadcrumb in jcpenney.com website
Target.com navigational elements
This site uses both breadcrumb and navigational link elements. Although there is a full path in the breadcrumb explaining the location where a user is, the navigational link menu is ineffective than jcpenney.com. In target.com website, the navigational link menu displays many links, which are not necessary (Figure 4). Another aspect is that each page displays different links on the sidebar, which are not related. It is therefore hard to determine where someone is. Unfortunately, this method has backfired, as there are many options and also brings distractions on the page.
Figure 4: Target.com navigational menu links
Conclusion and recommendation
For the website that I would like to create, I would recommend a modified hierarchical navigation model. This is the one that is used by jcpenny.com. My choice of this site structure is that it is simpler and less clustered. The navigational link menus do not take a lot of space and also does not force the user to scroll. The user is able to see their current action as they move within the page.
In my research, I found modified hierarchical structure as being easy to use and therefore will make use of this in my website.
Smith, J. (2006, February 26). Navigation structures comparison. Retrieved August 27, 2011, from Smith: http://www.jennismith.com/portfolio/assets/Smith_NavStructures.pdf