Top Level Navigation: To Click Or Not To Click


By: Drew McManus

When it comes to designing your website navigation menu, you’ll eventually need to make one critical choice in the form of deciding whether to make the top-level navigation menu items clickable or to trigger a hover-and-expand function to show sub-menu items.

While there are all sorts of rabbit holes in this topic such as how accessibility considerations may impact your decisions, there’s one quick and easy sure-fire rule of thumb to remember: never mix and match.

If one top level navigation item clicks through to a dedicated URL, they all need to click through to a dedicated URL.

Even if you have a mix of top-level only menu items and those with sub-menus that expand on hover, they should all work the same way.

How To Handle Top Level Pages

If you have any top-level menu items that function solely as a hover-and-expand trigger, consider making a new page that serves as a landing page for all the associated pages that appear as sub-navigation items.

In the following example, this is a client site currently in development and we made most of the top-level menu items function as a landing page with an image grid. Each image corresponds with an existing sub-menu item.

Here’s a variation on that idea.

This client wanted all top-level menu items to be hover-and-expand only. As such, we still made a landing page but simply inserted it as the first sub-menu item in the stack and assigned “Overview” as the menu label. When a visitor lands on one of those overview pages, it has the same page title as the parent hover-and-expand menu item to help tie things together for the site visitor.

Drew McManus
Drew McManus
In addition to my consulting business, I'm also the Principal of Venture Industries Online but don’t let that title fool you into thinking I'm just a tech geek. I bring 20+ years of global broad-based arts consulting experience to the table to help clients break the cycle of choosing one-size-fits-none solutions and instead, deliver options allowing them to get ahead of the tech curve instead of trying to catch up by going slower. With the vision of legacy support strategy and the delights of creative insights, my mission is to deliver a sophisticated next generation technology designed especially for the field of performing arts. The first step in that journey began in 2010 when The Venture Platform was released, a purpose-designed managed website development solution designed especially for arts organizations and artists. For fun, I write a daily blog about the orchestra business, provide a platform for arts insiders to speak their mind, lead a team of intrepid arts pros to hack the arts, lead an arts business incubator, and love a good coffee drink.
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2 thoughts on “Top Level Navigation: To Click Or Not To Click”

  1. Hi,

    Thank you for the article. When was this written and do you feel these are still the standards of the web when it comes to the management of primary and secondary menus?



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