Thoughts on site navigation

We built the subdomains first. We decided to integrate the main site navigation in the form of a yellow circle left of the logo.

Wood Tech nav Seattle Central

Main nav Seattle Central

This was an interim solution. The next iteration would probably focus on simplifying the navigation for a more intuitive experience network-wide.

Sub Navigation for Seattle Central College

The main site sub-nav for desktop was in the sidebar. We designed it for 3 levels.

Sites for higher education tend to have unwieldy navigation that can sometimes mirror the institutional structure. A few common ways of dealing with navigation are:

  • Global mega menu
  • Network of smaller sites with logo/link back to home
  • No global navigation (relying on search and breadcrumbs)

From what I have seen many higher education institutions use combination of all. Let’s go through each one.

Global mega menu

A global menu site-wide with the tops sections (and possibly sub sections). This approach might be problematic if there are too many sections of the site making the decision for where to click and what to find overwhelming for users.

Network of smaller sites

Each site has it’s own navigation. The only way to interact between the main site and satellite sites is by linking the logo or thoughtfully placed link.

No global navigation

This approach is clean design. It relies on well written content. It also relies on current content that is filled with the optimal search terms that a user would look (not just the lingo that is used inside the institution). It can be difficult to find if there are large sections of older content that has filled with jargon.

Small devices templates Seattle Central College

The sub-nav for small screens became the yellow bar.

What I learned

We decided it was important to incorporate the global navigation into the subdomains. Since our release was going to be staggered users were going to bounce between the legacy platform/UX/domain and the new subdomains for half a year. Now that everything is on one platform and codebase, the next step might be to have a search based navigation and rely on strong content.