Every time you write a drop down menu, somewhere in the world a kitten dies.

Categories UX, Web Design

Everything that causes uncertainty or puzzlement for a web site visitor is going to reduce your site’s chance of persuading them to behave the way you want them to.

Drop down menus are a classic case.  They were invented in the last century when usability and information access were ruled by the Two Click Rule.

Every page in your site must be accessible  with only two mouse clicks

Back in the last century pages with very little graphics and no Javascript would take 20 – 30 seconds to load , and to reduce the visitor’s waiting time we all thought we should  make everything accessible somehow on the landing page, a bit like having a text book index on the cover. We compressed them into lists within lists  and satisfied the 2 second rule

Bandwidth and speed have increased, and the two click rule was replaced long ago by the catch phrase “Don’t Make Me Think” . Steve Krug simply suggests web pages should be so simple and clear that the viewer can’t help but find what they are looking for, quickly and easily.

Now, let’s think about that viewer finding your  site, Acme Hardware Store, and wanting to buy a paint brush. If a database focused developer, store manager, or IT support person has been involved in the design, they will have to

  1. find a menu on that busy page
  2. click and hold on a “Products” button
  3. hold the mouse button down while you find the “Interiors” button
  4. click and hold the mouse button down while you scroll down “Paints and Wallpaper”
  5. click and hold that one and navigate to “Paint Brushes”

and if you slide the cursor outside of the menu it will fold up and you have to start again.  It’s not much fun, and there’s only one page to attract search engine terms.

With a goal centered, click through, design, the webbie would have know that people are there to buy stuff, and make it easy to do, for example

  1. The front page will have large targets to click on for each department
  2. the department page would have large targets to take you to the sub department you want
  3. the products will be displayed
and there are three, easily navigated pages to set up different search engine terms.  It will be quicker and easier, and will attract a lot more repeat visitors

Make the front page an advertisement for the site.  Lead the viewers through your site, make it really easy for them to see what they are doing,  and they will come back.

Make them fail and feel stupid because they can’t work out  where you have hidden what they came to you to find, and you will lose them.



Disclaimer: The title of this blog is based on nothing but a gut feeling I have that drop down menus are so disastrously wrong that they must be doing more damage than simply making a site unusable, unfriendly and unprofessional.


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