navigation optimization

A Look at Why Mega Drop-Down Menus Are So Effective

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Ease of navigation is one aspect of web design that many web designers tend to neglect, and it’s no wonder why. It’s hard to find the balance of elegant aesthetic features and usability, and most web designers often focus on the former, not knowing that they compromise the latter in the process.


Drop down menus for example, are a component of web design in which no clear rules are set. Recent trends however, have showed that the mega drop-down menu is perceived to be the most easy to use UI feature by web users. User testing has also confirmed this observation, showing that the design matches user behavior the most.

The mega drop-down menu is essentially a design idea taken from the Ribbon menus found Office 2007. It’s a GUI component that first drew flak during the software suite’s release, but it eventually won users over with its navigational features and ease of use.

While web designers, thinking that it’s easier to bring the desktop experience and incorporate it into web design, which in the end results in its misuse, mega drop-down menus offer a number of design solutions that remedy the problem of usability. These include absence of scrolling, structured navigation layout, and a design that shows all navigation options at once.

Here’s a closer look at how mega drop-down menus trump regular drop-downs in a number of departments.

  • The large the site, the more navigational options it will naturally have. Regular drop-down menus hinder the full exploration of a site by hiding user navigation options. Scrolling is often required to access hidden options, making the process unintuitive and frustrating after a while.
  • Grouping has long been a problem with regular drop-down menus—it’s a design limitation that can be circumvented by using hyphens to indicate groupings. However, this still doesn’t beat the capability of mega menus to highlight groupings and relationships between options.
  • Mega menus allow web designers to choose between icons, pictures and plain text for their menu interface. A picture after all, speaks a thousand words, and having that option can prove to be a major boon for a site’s interface.

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Source: Jakob Nielsen