At its most basic, global navigation appears on every page of a website and serves two primary functions according to the Nielsen Norman Group:
- Allows users to switch between top- level categories easily, no matter their current location.
- Ensures that even users who don't enter through the homepage can quickly get a sense of what is available on the website.
Reducing cognitive load
Navigation redesigns for large sites are always challenging. To make sure we did ours thoughtfully, an extensive audit of both the existing global navigation as well as the in-page navigation across main experience landing pages and their logical next steps was conducted by my team. We focused on reducing cognitive load for our customers based on the knowledge that they historically haven’t relied on a single type of navigation, but instead use a combination of the global navigation, in-page navigation instructions and links, and methods such as the “I want to” dropdown menu tree.
Recommend and validate
This approach required us to to strengthen the relationship between those types of navigation, utilizing the global navigation for top-level categories and data-driven selections of primary customer tasks. We also moved to a greater reliance on landing pages to offer contextual navigation links in-page as opposed to the kitchen-sink approach to the previous global navigation. To validate and refine our recommendations, multiple tree studies were performed and numerous usability tests were conducted to refine both taxonomy and terminology.
This effort resulted in a reduction in global navigation links from a previous high of approximately 367 links to a current base of 148 links, a decrease of nearly 60%. We're currently monitoring performance via behavioral and perception analytics.
To add to all of that, the new navigation was built responsively, displaying appropriate header and footer navigation across desktop, tablet, and mobile devices.