7 Reasons You Should Avoid JavaScript Dynamic Navigation

Over time many bad web design ideas have been dropped or lost favour, including unnecessary splash screens and unwieldy framesets, for the good of the web user. However, one web design bad habit that persists is the JavaScript Dynamic Navigation. This is bad news for both web users and those looking to commission a web designer to build a site for them. Ultimately if your navigation is broken, so is your site.

The seven top reasons why you should not use JavaScript Dynamic Navigation are:

Site navigation is difficult when navigation is not permanently displayed.

Everyone likes to know where they are going and even where they are! A site with a permanently visible navigation structure meets both of these requirements, but popup or dynamic navigation systems do not. Remembering that Google and the other search engines are as likely to deliver a visitor to a subpage as they are to your home page, a clear navigation structure is essential. Think of it as they “You are here” icon in your local shopping mall’s map.

Embedded elements can clash with dynamic navigation

A typical dynamic navigation structure will result in an overlay or pop up/down display. The challenge here is that if your site is media rich (ie contains flash animation or embedded video) these embedded elements will take precedence on the page. The end result is that part of your navigation will be hidden behind these elements making site navigation difficult if not impossible.

Cross browser/platform compatibility issues

As any developer will tell you, since the dawn of the internet, not all browsers are created equal. Some applications will follow a stricter implication of JavaScript than others. The only way to combat this issue is through vigorous testing – something that takes time and money. When you consider how quickly some browsers release code updates you have to be prepared to be in constant test and verification mode.

Usability issues- Dynamic Navigation is not for everyone

Just like menus in Windows or OSX, dynamic navigation structures require good hand/eye co-ordination. Not everyone will be as fast or as accurate as you are when it comes to using a mouse and nested dynamic navigation can be particularly hard to use. Usability studies with elderly users or those new to computers and the internet shows that such nested menus quickly cause frustration and are far from easy to use. Operating systems have addressed this issue by allowing a user to navigate using their arrow keys as well as a mouse but this is a complicated and difficult task to accomplish in JavaScript.

The Experts don’t do it

Go and visit your favourite site and then all the big internet names such as Google, Amazon, YouTube, BBC, MSN, Yahoo!, MySpace, eBay, Wikipedia, Craigslist, IMDB, etc, etc. There is a reason that you don’t see these sites using dynamic navigation and that’s because there are better ways. Any coaching or strategy expert will tell you the secret to success is to model those who are already successful. So if th336e experts don’t use dynamic navigation why would you?

You have plenty of other options

One advantage of a dynamic JavaScript navigation structure is that everything is contained in a single script file. Changing any aspect of the whole site’s navigation can be achieved by modifying this one file. However, this benefit is not unique to JavaScript. An external xml navigation structure or a range of server-side scripting processes can achieve the same effect and all are capable of outputting standard XHTML without any of the drawbacks listed in this article.

Your site will be broken if JavaScript is turned off!

With increased security awareness and the constant screen invasion by pop-ups many users restrict or even turn off JavaScript settings in their browsers. While this activity is designed to stop the JavaScript based popups, squeeze pages and floating ads, it will render your site inoperable. Statistics from W3Schools show that 10% of the visitors to your site will have JavaScript disabled. As there are plenty of better alternatives to a dynamic JavaScript navigation structure why even risk alienating 10% of your site visitors?

Written by: Iain Row
About the Author:
Iain Row is the lead developer at Prominent Media, Milton Keynes Web Development that specialises in producing website navigation solutions. This article was prepared by Andrew Silvers of Attraction Marketing. 2006 Prominent Media Ltd.

2 Replies to “7 Reasons You Should Avoid JavaScript Dynamic Navigation”

  1. you are right. it does make things difficult for clients. this may seem ridiculous, but what do i have to do to be able to open a webpage that uses javascript if the computer is not set up for java? the computer in questions gives an error message whenever i open java based websites. can you respond to me at h.berg@bloomberg.net, please? thank you so much!

  2. Rightly said..see I have a wordpress site but on my blog at blog.diggpoint.com I use a script plugin for search box. I too was confused earlier regarding more use of Javascript things but I thing better to be limited..

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