UX Best Practice: The Top-Level Link in a Dropdown Menu

The main purpose of user experience design on a website is to make your site an enjoyable experience for all users. Visual appeal is only one aspect of what makes a successful website. A site will not perform well if it lacks the other aspects of UX such as usability, accessibility, and information architecture.

In our new UX series, we will be addressing different elements of a website and their UX best practice guidelines. Implementing these concepts will have a positive impact on your site’s performance.

UX global navigation best practice: the top-level item in your dropdown menu should link to its own page

Although there is debate surrounding this topic, there are multiple reasons the top-level (hover) item in a dropdown menu should link to its own page. Here are the top three reasons:

  • Functionality. Tech can be unpredictable. If the dropdown menu malfunctions, the top-level link provides an alternative way for users to navigate the site. Without a clickable link in the top-level navigation, a malfunctioning menu will make it impossible for users to properly navigate your site. The top-level navigation item’s page should be an overview of the sub-items in its dropdown menu. We suggest creating a page with short descriptions and links to the pages in the dropdown.
  • Accessibility. When designing a website, it’s important to take all users into consideration. People navigating with assistive tech or a keyboard may have trouble triggering the dropdown menu to an open state. In the case that assistive technology is unable to trigger the menu into the open state, users will still be able to navigate if you have provided an alternative navigation option.
  • SEO. There are SEO advantages to making the top-level navigation item clickable. When the top-level navigation item links to its own overview page, it creates an opportunity for more internal linking. (An internal link is any link from one page on your website to another page on your website.) Search engines follow links to discover content on your website and rank this content in their search results. Using internal links creates more pathways for search engines to crawl and index your site, which can improve your SEO ranking.

Implementing clickable top-level navigation is a great way to improve usability on your website. If you need help deciding how to structure your website or would like assistance implementing such changes on your site, get in touch with us!

Categories:Web Design

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