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Follow the arrows at the bottom of each page for the tutorial, "How to Design a Website".
To study a particular aspect of website design refer to this tutorial index.

Hierarchical Navigation
Providing access to every page in your website content


Hierarchical navigation and user interaction

Often referred to as Web navigation the hierarchical model of website navigation goes from the general to the specific. It flows from a homepage to main sections to subsections in a cohesive structure of links. It is a way to tie together many areas of information into a working website structure. A visitor could easily go from the homepage to other areas of the website and back again using this pattern of website navigation.

Hierarchical navigation is the most frequently used type of website visitor routing on the internet due to it's flexability and efficiency. The goal of any hierarchical website navigation system is to provide an efficient means of simplifying user interaction. Remember, it is enhancing your visitor's satisfaction that you are aiming for and hierarchical navigation models can provide a means to that end.

Designing your navigation scheme in this way presents your visitor with a clear and simple path to access all of the pages in your site easily and to do so quickly from anywhere in the website. Information stratified in this manner provides an efficient flow of data for the people who come to your website seeking some specific knowledge.

Hierarchical Navigation Diagram

Hierarchical Navigation Link Diagram

Hierarchical navigation is the most popular navigation model on the web

This type of navigation is commonly used by most webmasters and, as I mentioned earlier, is often referred to as Web navigation. It is a combination of linear and database navigation structures which are interconnected in such a way that they provide access to any page in the website.

A good example of hierarchical navigation is a sitemap. Proper sitemap construction insures that the links are arranged into a concise pattern by the webmaster and that they are easily accessible by the visitor. Any page on your website should be able to be called up easily, with a minimum of clicks.


Sitemaps are the most common type of hierarchical navigation system

The most common type of Hierarchical navigation system is the sitemap. Each page of a website is represented by a text link, in the sitemap, which when clicked opens the page it represents. A sitemap has the advantage of giving the visitor a birds eye view of the entire content of a website, at a glance, making it easy for them to locate the information that they are seeking.

The hierarchical method of website navigation is often employed by the use of multiple drop-down menus. Each of the main website sections are displayed on a webpage as a link. Then by clicking on the links the subsections and/or databases become visible via a drop-down menu.

Navigation bars are also widely used throughout this type of website. They provide a way to link all or parts of the website content in a uniform manner. By placing a navigation bar on each page of your website you are providing an avenue, for your visitors, to explore deeper into the site.

Selecting a navigation scheme

Look at some of the most popular types of websites and see how they accomplish their navigation. Experiment, take notes and design a navigation scheme based on what you learn. Then design one that best suits your needs. The key here is to experiment until you achieve the desired result. Remember, ease of navigation is one of the principle factors in visitor satisfaction.

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