Menus Are a Sticky Situation

Let’s think about a large home improvement retail store for a moment. When you walk through the door you will see signs stating department names and maybe aisle numbers. Those signs might read something like Plumbing, Lumber, Windows and Doors, etc… The signs help you get familiar with the store layout and direct you to the department you are looking for. They are essential. Website navigation menus really aren’t much different. They help visitors get familiar with the topics of the site and allow them to get to the content or product they are looking for.

Okay, back to the home improvement store. You are in the plumbing department and need to get over to the lumber department. Not too hard to do. After all, there are department signs directing you. However, if the signs were not there, you’d have to walk around until you find the lumber department yourself. The walking exercise would be good, but you’ve wasted time getting to what you actually need.

The same holds true on the web. You have finished reading, ordering, playing, etc.. now what? Scroll to the top to find the menu so you can get on to the next thing. Is this okay? In some cases, yes. More on that in a moment, but wouldn’t it be nice to have the menu stay with you as you move down a page? You bet it would be. These are called “sticky menus” or “fixed menus.” A sticky menu will allow visitors to find what they are looking for quicker and they can also encourage longer visits because navigation frustration is lower.

However, sticky menus are not always appropriate. Smaller mobile devices have limited screen real estate, so unless it is absolutely necessary, a sticky menu should not be used for mobile. Touching the screen to scroll content could also cause an undesired action. It is important to be deliberate in the use of sticky menus. When used properly, the user experience is truly enhanced and is more efficient, which could translate into user loyalty.

An example of a non-mobile sticky menu can be seen right here on You will notice the phone number and social links have disappeared, but the navigation has stayed with you.

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