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Menus and Clarity

Web site menus can be very helpful or extremely frustrating to visitors, so let’s take a minute to think about how your menus are arranged. Here are some general best practices for menus to consider:

  • Horizontal menus are quicker to read than vertical menus, because we read left to right
  • Single word menu names are quicker to read, and more compact allowing you to fit more
  • The first menu is typically Home
  • Place the most important menus to the left, less important to the right
  • Related menus should be placed under a drop-down menu
  • Avoid using more than two levels of menus, it’s too hard to navigate with three or more levels

I was working on a web site at and had a chance to step back and ask myself these same questions. We were having too many menu choices across the page width, so I make the simple decision to group related menu pages under a common top-level menu called Sections. This is a newspaper site, and I knew that visitors were familiar with the concept of newspaper sections, so now there are three drop-down choices under Sections:

tualatin life, menu


Another usability issue is that for drop-down menus, visitors do not click the top-level menu, in this case the menu called Sections, because they see the three drop-down choices and intuitively click only the drop-down menus.

The end result for this web site is that we have a cleaner top-level menu structure, and have grouped common pages under the Sections menu.

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