A Website’s navigation can make or break the user experience. Hierarchical website navigation is a type of website navigation that organizes content into a tree structure, where each node in the tree represents an individual page and each link between nodes represents a path from one page to another. The pages are organized such that they form a hierarchy, with the most important pages at the top of the hierarchy. This allows users to easily navigate through the site by following links on the various pages.
What is Hierarchical Navigation
The term hierarchical website navigation was coined by John Allspaw in 1999 as a way to describe how websites organize their content hierarchically. He describes it as “a set of conventions for structuring information on the Web so that its presentation and organization reflect some underlying logical structure.”
In contrast to flat website navigation, which presents all of the available pages in a single list, hierarchical website navigation organizes the site into a tree-like structure. Each level of the tree corresponds to a specific category of information. For example, if you were looking for information about your favorite sports team, you would start at the root of the hierarchy, then drill down through the levels until you found what you were looking for.
The Importance of Hierarchical Navigation
Hierarchical navigation has several advantages over flat navigation:
- It makes navigating large websites easier because there are fewer choices to consider when browsing.
- It helps people find the information they need quickly.
- It provides a more intuitive interface for users who have difficulty remembering URLs .
- It improves search engine optimization because it is easier for search engines to crawl and index the site.
- It increases usability because it reduces cognitive load.
- It encourages people to explore the site rather than just reading.
- It helps people avoid getting lost on the site.
- It helps people learn new things.
- It helps people remember things.
- It helps them locate information faster.
- It helps them get back to where they started.
- It helps them find related information.
- It helps them understand the relationships among different parts of the site.
How to Create Hierarchical Navigation
There are two ways to create hierarchical navigation:
- Create a separate navigational menu for each section of the site.
- Create a master navigation menu that contains links to all of the sections of the site.
Creating a Separate Navigational Menu for Each Section of the Site
This method requires creating a separate navigational menu per section of the site. You could use this approach for any number of reasons, including:
- If the site is very large, it may be impractical to create a separate navigational menu.
- You may want to keep the main navigational menu simple.
- You may want a consistent look across the site.
- You may not want to clutter up the main navigational menu with too many options.
This method works well if the site is small and only consists of a few sections. It also works well if the sections are fairly independent of each other.
Creating a Master Navigational Menu That Contains Links to All of the Sections of the Site
This option is better suited for larger sites or sites that contain multiple sections that aren’t really independent from one another. The advantage here is that you can maintain consistency throughout the entire site without having to create a separate navigable menu for every page.
This method works best if the site is large and complex. It’s also good for sites that have lots of subsections.
Creating a Hierarchical Structure
If you are using a content management system like WordPress, this structure is created automatically using categories and posts, or pages and child pages.
To create a hierarchical structure, follow these steps:
1. Identify the primary categories of content on the site. These will likely include the most popular topics.
2. Create a top-level link that points to the home page.
3. Create an additional set of links that point to the subcategories within the first set of links.
4. Repeat step 3 until you reach the lowest level of the hierarchy.
5. Create a final set of links that point back to the homepage.
6. Add some text above the links to explain what they do.
7. Use CSS styling to make the links stand out visually.
8. Test your navigation to ensure that it works properly.
9. If you need to change anything about the navigation, repeat steps 1 through 8.