The following list shows some basic web site navigation schemes:
The link colors in your text should be familiar to your visitor, if possible. Blue text usually indicates an unvisited link and purple or maroon text usually indicates a visited link. If you elect not to use the default colors, your text links should be emphasized in some other way: boldfaced, a larger font size, set between small vertical lines or square brackets, or a combination of these. Text links should be unique — they should not look the same as any other text in your web pages. You do not want people clicking on your headings because they think the headings are links.
The biggest advantage of using text links is the quick download time. If you are using large (in K) graphic images on your web pages, then it might be best to have a navigation scheme of text links. The other advantage of text links is that some of the text can be keywords.
The biggest disadvantage of text links is that they can be boring to look at, especially if you have a large amount of blue links sprinkled throughout your web pages. People like simplicity and ease of navigation. Thus, if there is a way to make your text links more visually appealing and easy to discern from other sections of content, such as placing them in a colored table cell or a colored sidebar, then we recommend you do this.
Graphic images have visual appeal. Peoples' eyes are naturally drawn to a splash of color and a change in dimension. The biggest advantage to using navigation buttons is that they give your visitors a visual representation of how to navigate your site right away, especially if the navigation buttons are visible on the top part of a computer screen.
Another advantage of using graphic images/navigation buttons is that as long as the navigation buttons have alternative text in the HTML code, your web site can still be navigated even if your visitors turn off the graphic images. (For tips on writing the HTML for graphic images, click here.)
If navigation buttons are used in conjunction with text links, you have multiple places to put keywords: both within the text link and the alternative text of the navigation buttons. Many search engine optimization specialists recommend this combination for good search engine indexing.
Download time is a big consideration in determining whether or not you should use navigation buttons. In general, you should keep the navigation buttons' file size to between 1K-5K in file size and dimensions between 60-165 pixels in width and 25-60 pixels in height. You don't want the main message of your site to be the navigation buttons, and you don't want people clicking off of your site waiting for all of your navigation buttons to download.
Many sites are getting away from using a beveled effect on navigation buttons
to show variety in web site design. The disadvantage of this idea is that many
visitors might not understand that the graphic image is a hyperlink. One of the
main reasons beveled buttons are so popular is that people believe that a "buttony"
image is "clickable." The following shows two sets of navigation buttons - the
beveled buttons appear to be more "clickable."
Sometimes a single image map is quicker to download than multiple navigation buttons, as is the case with our web site. Another advantage for using image maps for site navigation is that graphic designers can show a bit more creativity in designing an image map compared to designing a set of navigation buttons.
Alternative text can also be placed inside the HTML of an image map.
Many graphic designers who specialize in print design like to show off their design talent by creating beautiful image maps that are slow to download. Having a beautiful image map can increase sales and show creativity and uniqueness, but there is a good chance of having potential customers click off your web site before a page has time to download.
The main advantage of drop-down menus is web page real estate. Drop-down menus don't take up as much screen space as multiple graphic images.
If your site navigation uses a CGI script, you must have a web server support your type of script.Dynamically generated URLs
Dynamically generated URLs, particularly for online stores, help potential customers find the product or services very quickly. Site visitors can type in a search term and find what they are looking for within three clicks.
Search functions also don't take up much screen space.
The main disadvantage with this navigation scheme is that many search engines will not index dynamically generated URLs. Thus, in order to get your web site indexed, it is best to submit non-dynamically generated web pages to the search engines.
Maintaining both a database that generates web pages (i.e. dynamically generated) and static (HTML) pages can be both expensive and time consuming.