Designing good navigation menus is tricky, they’re important because people often rely on menus to access content and features. But navigation menus aren’t the star of the show, so most of the time they should be out of the way when trying to balance these two goals. It’s easy to air on the side of making navigation too subtle, leading users to overlook menus when they really need them. So here are five tips for making sure that your navigation menus are visible enough to be effective. First, resize menus relative to the overall screen size. If you design for mobile screens first and then try to use the same layout on larger screens, check to see how your navigation menus look.
A tiny menu icon on a phone screen might be noticeable, but become lost on a large laptop or desktop monitor. Second, stick with familiar locations when placing navigation menus on large screens. This means the top or left edge when you put navigation menus in unusual places like the right edge of his screen or underneath the header so large that the menu is actually pushed down to the middle of the screen, people are much less likely to notice your menu. The third tip is to make sure your menus look interactive like something that you can tap or click. This doesn’t mean that you need to make the entire menu look like a collection of 3D buttons. It just means avoiding camouflage, like placing the menu links on top of decorative graphics or using such extreme flat design that the menu looks like it’s just a line of text. The fourth tip is padding. Menus are less noticeable when they’re closely crowded with other screen elements like headers, large images or content that creeps up close to the menu. Just adding a little more padding around a menu can go a long way towards making it visible. Last but not least, contrast. This is truly about not just noticing a menu, but whether people will literally be able to perceive the text. Use a color contrast calculator to make sure your menu labels have enough distinction from the background color to be easily red and avoid using images as your background. The effects of these five factors tend to be cumulative, so the more guidelines you ignore, the less effective your navigation will be. Overall, ignoring just one of these tips is bad. But if you ignore several like you make a tiny, low contrast menu and put it at the bottom of a screen, you’re pretty much guaranteeing that a lot of people won’t notice the menu. And if they don’t even see it, they definitely won’t be able to use it.