Website Navigation Design: Patterns & Tools

Instructor: David Gloag

David has over 40 years of industry experience in software development and information technology and a bachelor of computer science

Websites are commonplace these days, and with them, a large number of navigation strategies. In this lesson, we'll take a look at website navigation design, patterns that appear, and some tools that are used.

Navigating the Internet

The Internet provides a wealth of information. You can find interesting details about your favorite musician, you can locate places of interest for your next vacation, and you can find product and company information on an organization you'd like to do business with. But sometimes, it seems like there is too much information, too many things to wade through and digest. Surely, there is something that can reduce the complexity and lead us to the place we want to go? There are several things, actually, and one is navigation. In this lesson, we'll explore the patterns and tools of navigation design.

What Is Navigation Design?

Navigation design is the process of creating a method or strategy that can be used to traverse something. Think of navigation as a plan or map that points you in the right direction along the way - in other words, a guide. It can be as simple as creating a table of contents for a book or creating the various road signs to guide drivers, or as complex as creating the menus and tools of a software application. Regardless of the focus, these strategies allow you to negotiate your way through a myriad of choices and arrive at your ultimate destination.

How Does Navigation Design Relate to Websites?

Like the examples mentioned above, websites require navigation. This is particularly true today, with the increasing number of websites in existence and the vast amounts of information they present. For example, can you imagine yourself trying to explore a website like, or without the assistance of the navigational structure these sites provide? Not likely. There is simply too much information, too many choices. It would be like the proverbial needle in the haystack. Fortunately, websites today employ a system of pages, menus, options, and links that lead you through what they have to offer.

Patterns Used in Website Navigation Design

Navigational structure varies greatly from website to website. Given the desire of every site to stand out in some fashion, it's safe to say that most, if not all, are unique. But even with this, there are commonalities or patterns, things that they all do to provide some familiarity to those that would use their site. Some of the more notable ones are as follows:

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