The drop-down menu: Despite the benefits, is it still the best choice? By Steve Swallow
Does your website include drop-down menus as part of its design? Despite the benefits, could there be a better option?
Drop-down menus have become an intrinsic part of modern web-design but are they all they’re cracked up to be?
The drop-down menu has become a mainstay ingredient of most, if not all, modern websites. A menus ability to include a whole host of options and pathways to direct users to different areas of the site has proved to be the main reason for their popularity but, as with even the most intrinsic parts of web design, it still must be evaluated as to how effective they are.
Firstly, what has the drop-down menu got to offer, that other list styles simply cant. Well, for one, its a much handier way of compiling a list in that it doesn’t take up anywhere near as much screen space as others because generally it relies on a mouse over to spark it into life.
This means that it can hold a number of different sub-menus and categories without eating into the precious space on the front of your website. What’s more, should you want to add or change anything in terms of what makes up the list, this wont diminish the space on the rest of the page either. This could be vital if the page in question contains a great deal of information.
Another plus point, in terms of how pleased your users will be when it comes to navigating the site, is that drop-downs dont require any vertical scrolling.
However, its not all plain sailing for drop-downs, with one problem being that sometimes, you can’t see the entire set of selections without hovering over each header. Also, for a particularly large and well-populated list, the window may need to be maximised by the user in order to see all the options.
A study carried out for the Fidelity Investments website, prior to it going live, named drop-downs as its favoured choice. Those behind the study reported; We decided to choose the drop-down menus as our navigation method. A subsequent lab-based usability test of the complete prototype using the drop-down menus showed that users were able to use it to navigate the site very effectively.