Technical Choices for Navigation - Navigation Part 3

Technical Choices for Navigation

Technical concerns include whether to use dropdown navigation, employ scripting, use CSS, and backward compatability.

Using Dropdown Navigation in Navigation Menus

Some sites have a substantial amount of content. For these, you may consider using dropdown navigation. With a dropdown scheme, the web page at rest displays the main categories for your content links. When the user places the mouse or cursor over a main category, or clicks on a dropdown control, additional options are displayed, showing specific links for each main category. Clicking on any of these sublinks will bring you to a web page addressing that specific subcategory within the primary category.

For one example of dropdown boxes for major categories, see the Action Graphics web site.

Using Scripting for Navigation

Certain effects, such as swapping images or displaying dropdown menus upon a mouseover event, require scripting to allow them to function. These are typically JavaScripts or VBScripts embedded within the header of the HTML page to provide the functionality of the script on that web page.

The benefit of including scripts to drive your navigation menus include:

  • the ability to offer many links in a limited amount of space
  • the ability to group your links by category and subcategory
  • the addition of dynamic elements to your web page
  • a professional "dazzle" effect (or the cool factor)

Drawbacks of using scripts for navigation may include:

  • Limited compatability with some browsers
  • Inabilty to display correctly if scripting is disabled intentionally by the user or by corporate controls

These are substantial drawbacks that have to be considered, including who your audience is, how much content you have to display, and how current their web browsers are in general.

Use of CSS for Navigation Effects, and Backward Compatibility

You should consider whether to use Cascading Style Sheets to provide an updated look and feel to your navigation scheme. On the plus side, there are many effects you can control to make your navigation attractive, appealing, and easy to use. Possible downsides includes limited support for older web browsers or browsers that implement CSS poorly. These include Internet Explorer (all versions prior to version 7), once the dominant web browser on the planet, and still widely used.

Careful application of CSS will leave users of older browsers seeing a less flashy version of your navigation scheme, but able to fully navigate to all of your links. Poor application of CSS, however, could prevent your visitors from even accessing the links you intend to show - having a dramatic negative impact to some of your potential users, visitors, or customers.