Mega navs work well but is the overview page missing out?

In 2009, Jakob Nielsen said that mega drop-down navigation menus work.


An example mega nav from the site.

In 2010, Nielsen also pointed out some mega-menus gone wrong.

And in 2011, I find myself testing mega navs more and more for clients. Personally I like consciously designed mega navs.

However during the last two projects, I noticed that participants missed the fact they could also select the primary navigation link. None of the 24 participants did this unless prompted by us. Time and time again participants were only using the links displayed in the mega nav to navigate around the site.

Why don’t users click on the links in the primary navigation to view an overview page?

Is it because they got so engaged and distracted by the mega nav options or is it because they assume the actual tab itself just doesn’t do anything? On the other hand is the overview page initially obsolete when users just want to find something quickly, with the mega nav helping them get there quicker.

Sometimes however the mega nav links bring users that little bit too far into the site making them miss a vital page prior to this to set the scene. Is it only when users actually want to browse, see an overview or get stuck that this overview page suddenly becomes useful.

When we asked participants, all said they didn’t know they could actually click on the link in the primary navigation. In the user testing sessions we could at least point this out to them but in real life how do we get people to realise this link provides value to those browsing. Historically these links have always been clickable so it’s odd to see the behaviour suddenly change so quickly.

While I am still unresolved on this whole topic I’d be interested to hear if others have had similar experiences.


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Objective Experience is your partner for customer experience strategy, research, design and usability testing. Our team of passionate Customer Experience Consultants uncover insights from your customers to optimize customer journeys across all digital and physical channels – mobile apps, websites, systems, shopper and retail. We research on how customers interact with products, services and environments through interviews, surveys, focus groups, desk research, eye tracking and usability testing. Actionable recommendations are developed from our in-depth observations and testing. Our partners and clients come from a wide range of businesses and industries - from large financial institutions and government organisations to technical consultancies, Universities and not-for-profit businesses. Objective Digital Holdings Pty Ltd has offices in Sydney (Objective Experience Sydney) and Singapore (Objective Experience Singapore). Eye Tracking, CX, UX, Usability Testing, Shopper Research & Design Thinking across Australasia and South East Asia.

1 thought on “Mega navs work well but is the overview page missing out?

  1. Hi Anna,If the menu drops down after a rollover, I am not surprised the users don’t click on it. Why would they expect 2 behaviours for only one component?

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