Website Menu Dropdowns. Friend or Foe?

Website Menu blog the WanderWeb Web Design Web Strategy Bangor ME

Is the order of your website menu dropdowns important? Well yes, yes it is. Here’s how to win at dropdowns in 30 minutes or less.

Did you know that in website navigation the items on the top and the bottom are the most effective because this is where retention and attention are highest? Take a moment to evaluate the number of items listed in each of your menu dropdowns, and the order in which they are listed. Now let’s get to fixin’.

***Nerd Alert*** This is called the serial position effect, and it merges to cognitive biases. The primacy effect refers to the items at the top of the list, and the recency effect applies to the items at the bottom of the list.  Items listed in this manner are easier to remember. 

In everyman terms, your customers notice and remember the items on the top or bottom of your navigation so that’s where you should put the most important items. 

The length of your menu dropdown list is important too.

In fact, more recent research shows that although the brain uses “chunking” as a method to improve recall in short-term memory, the number depends on the category (is anyone else craving a cookie?). This means the longer your website menu navigation, the more difficult the information is to remember and process for your customers. Consequently, with long lists lead visitors’ eyes to scan past important items. For this reason, if you need to use more than seven items, consider breaking them up into groups. Or, drop it like its hot *ahem*. Because dropdown. Get it?

So. Warning! Alert! Avoid long lists.

Stop right now, go to your website and reduce your menu dropdowns to five to seven items, MAX. How to know which menu items are the most important? Take a peek at your analytics and see which pages have the most traffic.  Here are some examples of decisions you might make based on your analysis from these reports.

Move items that often get clicked to the top of the list

Remove items that rarely get clicked, if they aren’t critical

Rename or relabel that rarely get clicked, if they are important

Tip! Each time you remove a menu item (or any other element) from a page, everything left becomes more visually prominent and is more likely to be seen and considered. This technique is using white space. White space lets the viewer’s eye rest and is the mark of a good website designer.  Less is more and all that. We’ll get into detail about white space in another blog post.

Remember, designing your navigation is the beginning, not the end. Digital ink is never dry. In any case, a few weeks after creating your navigation, you can use analytics to look back and do an evaluation. And, of course, if you need some help, give us a buzz. We got you!