Trends in website design have evolved tremendously. Back in the beginning, it was like the wild west—no rules, just a mad dash to internet gold. So few sites actually existed that the general public couldn’t be all that critical of layout and user interface. Times have changed. If a user is unhappy with a website’s navigation, it’s onto the next competitor in two clicks. The rising demand for ease of use, captivating design, and intuitive usability has shaped how we construct websites today. Let’s look at the dropdown menu, for instance…
You’ve seen them everywhere—a simple menu bar at the top of a website that reveals more links beneath when hovered upon. This tool has been a staple in presenting the hierarchy of a site’s pages to the user. Some are more elaborate than others, but the primary objective remains the same: to present visitors with a complete and organized visual of the site’s content. Calling the trusty dropdown menu into question has been a recurring conversation among the web design community these past few years. There are quite a few holdouts (us included), but the writing’s on the wall—dropdowns are dying.
What’s So Bad about Dropdowns?
First and foremost, dropdown menus are not mobile-friendly. Sure, they might look pretty and function decently on tablets and phones, but they do not provide an ideal navigational experience. With half of your traffic coming from mobile devices, it’s foolish to ignore this reality. On a more macro scale, dropdowns tend to facilitate the creation of several thin pages, over hearty cornerstone content. It’s all too easy to believe you are doing your visitors a favor by neatly organizing your site’s dozens of pages into a handful of top-level categories. In reality, you are creating a confusing virtual mess and surrendering control of the user journey. The final argument against dropdowns is a bit subjective, but becoming more of a universal truth by the day—dropdowns are ugly!
Dropdown Menu Alternatives
You didn’t think we were going to trash a beloved navigational tactic and leave you with no alternatives, did you? There is no need to alter the hierarchy of your sitemap. Parent and Child pages can continue to exist as you wish. However, now is a good time to reimagine how they are presented to the visitor.
Minimize and simplify your primary header navigation to just a few top-level links. This is the equivalent of someone typing in a zip code to focus a world map on one specific region. On these landing pages, you provide links, buttons, and shortcuts to the sub-pages beneath where it makes sense to do so. It’s all about context! Crafting your user experience in this way allows site owners to take back control of how people browse, learn, and buy online.
As of the date of this posting, we are working to eradicate dropdown menus here at ACS on our own site, as well as future client launches. Much like the old wild west, there are still no hard rules at play. Sometimes, a dropdown just makes sense. Take some time to evaluate your own website and look for ways to make your customer journey more fluid and intuitive.