In 2009, Jakob Nielsen said that mega drop-down navigation menus work.
An example mega nav from the Foodnetwork.com 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.