We recommend that you start with Questions for your New Inspire Site before moving on to this guide.
What is the Information Architecture? This is the fancy term that represents an arrangement of labels with destinations, forming a map of your website.
Choosing Your Labels
When choosing your navigation labels, you want to appeal to search engines. People are searching for answers and if your navigation labels are descriptive enough, users will be lead to your pages. No one is searching "services" or "what we do". Analytics show people are more likely to search for the product or service by description such as "lawn mowing companies" or "lawn mowers for sale". Be as direct and descriptive of what exactly is on the page as possible—it's best to try not to get creative with navigation phrases. Instead, be clear and descriptive.
Labels are also important for new visitors. If they have come to your site for the first time, a descriptive navigation should direct them to the information they are looking for. This means no company specific terms in the navigation—if someone doesn't know your organization well enough to be a first time visitor, then they will not understand terms specific to the organization.
Limit Your Labels
There should only be a maximum of seven items in the navigation menu. People browsing the web generally have a short attention span and can only hold an amount of seven, plus or minus two, in their short term memory. Anything more than seven is overwhelming to most users.
This effects the order of the navigation as well. People tend to remember the first navigation item and the last (or most recent) navigation item. First usually means primary to us, so we are more likely to hold on to that phrase. Last usually means it happened most recently so we have an easier time holding on to that phrase in our minds as well. Choose your first and last item wisely, make them direct to the most important information, as users leave the site they will most likely identify those navigational phrases with your site as a whole
Sub Menu Items
If you must include pages within primary navigation, try to limit them. If you provide more links away from the home page its rank in importance on search engines will go down.
Sub pages also tend to become clicked more than the primary navigation items. If a user has decided to click on a navigation item but suddenly, when hovered, more options appear, they will tend to go for the inner, more specific pages—something to keep in mind.
Most users also find drop down menus annoying! Users prefer no surprises on web pages. It is safer to go with a more what-you-see-is-what-you-get route so people know what they're getting into when they hover a link. Any disturbances in this usability—such as a long list of more links appearing—is frustrating.
A best practice alternate for drop downs is a "mega menu". A mega menu is when the web builder provides categories to clump links into—it provides organization among the many links for a user.