Web Menus: The Backbone of Modern Site Navigation Systems
Time & Navigation
Time is still the most precious commodity you ask for when you ask for the privilege of promoting your products, services, or information to an individual. Time has always been a particularly paradoxical problem with the internet's instant information that is ever delayed by interminable connection delays and page download times. It is not enough to keep load times below thirty seconds. Web masters must also ensure that no page on the site is more than three clicks from any other page on the site in order to keep the visitor's attention. In other words, no visitor to your site should have to navigate links on more than three pages to find what they are looking for.
Prior to 1995, web sites were mostly small affairs with less than ten pages and requiring only inline text links to ensure fair navigational coverage. Just before the turn of the century, small business began to make a prominent stand on the internet and most web presences were second order sites with between 10-100 pages. These sites needed a more systematic approach to ensure that visitors could find what they were looking for in three clicks or less and the web toolbar made its meteoric rise in application. After the first five years of the new millennium, many of those "small" businesses are not so small any more (in spite of the dot com crash) and the largest proportion of sites are third order with between 100 and 1000 pages. The web toolbar is quite effective when deployed in a cascading hierarchy of up to 100 web pages, but beyond this number of web pages, visitors may often find themselves having to navigate more than three web pages to find what they are looking for within the web site. If you cannot quickly guide your visitors where they want to go someone else will, and so your visitors will go elsewhere.
Web Menus: The new symbol of web professionalism
A number of approaches to solving this dilemma for sites of more than 100 pages have been tried. The trusty site map tacked to the top of every page is most certainly going to kill both the impact and the identity of any page on the site - as visitors then have to scroll down to somewhere in the middle of the page to find out if they have arrived at the correct location. Tacking a site map onto the end of a page is only slightly more effective, but if the visitor has not arrived at their destination of choice, they must still scroll down to some indeterminate point somewhere in the middle of the page to start at the beginning of the site map. Link tables and long sidebar link lists have also been tried and are quite effective for sites with 70 to 100 pages. However, there is a limit to how long a single page or link list should be if it is to be effective and easy to use. Link tables can carry a large number of links without upsetting page length, but tend to be a little too bulky to allow effective first glance page identification. The focus is after all, meant to be the page content rather than all of the alternative destinations! Furthermore when the visitors are searching for the right destination, the visibility of large amounts of irrelevant material can distract from the table headings and result in certain links being missed by a proportion of visitors. Web menus do not have this problem. The headings are all that are visible until a menu is selected, and then only the column belonging to that heading becomes visible on selection. This has the potential to improve visitor retention by ensuring that the right page is so much easier to find.
Web Sergeant makes history, 2005-05-05ISO
The web menu made it's debut on the internet with CSS 2.0, some years ago, but due to compliance failures on the part of browser developers, the sheer complexity of menu systems in general and the simplicity of most HTML features, web menus have been some time in development. In fact, until the launch of Web Sergeant, nobody has been able to produce an interoperable web menu system that will work in any browser under any security settings. Most of the web menus you observe either fail to operate in the browser used by 90% of visitors, or otherwise fail to function whenever the visitor has the proper security settings in place on their browser.
Now, for the first time in history, the web menu can replace toolbars, sidebars, and link tables as the backbone of a web site's navigation system because Web Sergeant can build a web menu that functions under all but the most extreme conditions.
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