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Site Navigation’s First Priority is Prominence

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Site navigation gets the same benefit from prominence as advertising, content, functionality or any other element on a site.

The more prominent the navigation, the more likely people will click on the links.

Prominence can be added to navigation or taken away with a few navigation design tactics:


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 website logo. Website navigation below the logo gets more clicks than above the logo. Text links are even more useless than clickable graphics.

Horizontal is now the most popular way to present site navigation. Vertical navigation was popular in the early days of website design, but it fell out of favor because site visitors don’t like to scroll. So links at the bottom of the navigation got few clicks.

There is one major downside to horizontal 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. Site visitors want immediate satisfaction or they will go elsewhere.


Bold white lettering on dark backgrounds are popular because they are more prominent than the other way around. Navigation topics with single words are better than multiple words that chew up valuable space.

Font size

Larger fonts get higher click rates because the lettering is more prominent. But at some point the size of the lettering becomes overbearing compared to the rest of the page. A good starting point is about 15 to 16 pixels along with some experimenting.


Using a graphical typeface that is unlike the normal fonts such as arial, helvetica, georgia and times will grab more attention and also increase the click rate. White san serif fonts on a dark background are sharper to the eye.

Why Make Navigation More Prominent?

So much of traffic for many sites comes from search engines. Many sites are lucky to get the majority of visitors click on anything after visiting a single page.

So site publishers might wonder why use any website menu at all. In reality, navigation should help highly engaged website visitors find more relevant content besides what they found from a single page.

Site managers also should use navigation as a strategy 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 menu 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 Site Navigation Clicks

Google Analytics and other audience programs have the ability to track clicks from individual links.

In the case of GA, it is a small javascript placed within the HTML link code. Other audience programs also read javascript and provide the results.

Those results are usually quite revealing. They may show that some links are virtually worthless and others extremely 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.

Link 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 website navigation design reveals a great deal about a site and its visitors.

Beware Crowding

Some sites use multilayer menus, but research shows that people rarely click below the first level. In fact, click rates aren’t always high even at the top level.

So beware crowding site navigation with multiple layers. Also avoid crowding the text with options that contain two or more words, unless absolutely necessary.

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