Since WordPress introduced the drag & drop menu system a few months ago I’ve noticed a major usability issue rearing it’s ugly head. I’d like to point it out so web designers avoid making the same mistakes.
The problem occurs when site managers build a dropdown menu, then place a bunch of dummy links in the top-level menu—I know, you’re shocked.
Dropdown menus done right
Here’s a screenshot of the Gold Bullion International (GBI) header I snapped earlier (I often shop for Gold Bullion in my downtime).
The developers of this site have got it right. They’ve presented a list of top-level navigation buttons that display a dropdown menu when rolled over, just like a million other websites do.
What makes GBI better than most poorly planned WordPress sites is that clicking on a top level menu item, e.g. ‘Why Bullion’, opens the first child page of that menu (in this case, ‘Market Opportunity’) as well as showing the dropdown menu.
The site’s developers know that most people are in a rush and may click on a top-level menu before looking for a dropdown. This is because many web users know that clicking on the link that kind of resembles what they want will probably get them to the page they actually want.
Dropdown menus done wrong
Conversely, on a number of WordPress (and other CMS) sites I’ve seen, I’ve been served a dummy link (
<a href="#">), resulting in the dropdown appearing when I click, leaving me to decide what to click before anything happens.
Think I’m being petty?
I probably am, but there’s a sound reason for building menus this way. It reduces friction.
By serving up an actual link in the top level menu, GBI removes a layer of friction, making it easier and faster for me to take action.
Inevitably, that’s going to lead to more gold bullion sales.
The solution to sloppy navigation
Removing those pesky dummy links from your menus is easy.
- Find the child menu button that’s most likely to relate to the parent.
- Make that button the first one in the dropdown.
- Link the top-level button to the same page as the first dropdown button.
The WordPress community has given us a very powerful menu system to play with, but with great power comes the ability to screw things up spectacularly. So instead of confusing your users, be nice to them and they’ll send you money.