The more prominent the site navigation, the more likely people will click on the links.
Prominence increases or decreases in navigation with a few simple design techniques:
Position. It is tempting to say that the higher on the page the better, but it isn’t entirely true.
Site visitors have trained themselves largely to ignore the site logo. Navigation below the logo gets more clicks than above the logo.
Horizontal navigation is now the most popular way to present navigation. The number of words is limited by the width of the display. Many designers answer that problem with elaborate dropdowns that rarely get clicked as a percentage of total site navigation clicks.
Color. The hotter the color and the more pixel width and depth of the color, the higher the click rate.
Fonts. The larger the font, the higher the click rate. A navigation font different than body text stands out better as well.
Graphics. Using a graphical typeface that is unlike the normal fonts such as arial, helvetica, georgia and times roman will grab more attention and also increase the click rate.
Why Make Navigation More or Less Prominent?
It might be better to ask why use any navigation at all if the background color is drab and the font is small and hard to read.
Website navigation should help the visitor find relevant content.
But site managers also should use it to drive eyeballs to high value content in the form of lucrative advertising campaigns, e commerce transactions, subscriptions, memberships and other strategically valuable initiatives.
If a navigation link to a section is more valuable than the links to individual articles on the page, it seems reasonable to have a highly prominent nav bar. If the links on the page are more valuable, the nav bar can be less prominent.
How to Analyze Navigation
Google Analytics and other audience programs have the ability to track clicks from individual links.
Those results are usually quite revealing. They will show that some links may be nearly worthless and others very valuable.
The numbers should lead to revisions of the nav bar that will get rid of poor performers. Then again, the problem may be relevance.
Relevance Also Matters
Imagine going to a football game and hearing the announcers discuss baseball at great length.
The conversation simply isn’t relevant to the game everyone is watching.
Make a navigation bar prominent and put links on there that may be valuable to the site managers but not relevant to the visitors BECAUSE OF WHY THEY CAME THERE.
If the site is about sports, but the majority of the traffic is there to see football results, a nav link for football will get more clicks than a nav link for baseball.
So the site managers must decide if they need to remove the baseball link or do a much better job of attracting a baseball audience.
Either way, the prominence of a navigation bar reveals a great deal about a site and its visitors.