The layout of a website serves two purposes. The layout should provide a pleasant experience for the reader and it should direct readers towards specific actions. A well designed layout makes the reader comfortable. Very comfortable. So comfortable that they do not realize you are directing them towards a specific action.
Most websites have the same basic layout. A header, a navigation bar, body and footer. There are countless ways to skin a cat (slice down the center and peel back, burn with blow torch, drop into bucket of acid) but variations in this basic website layout are limited.
One aspect of the layout you can fiddle with is the location of the main navigation bar.
As the name suggests, the function of the main navigation bar is to allow readers access to the main sections of your website. With the main navigation bar the reader can jump to your about page, the contact page, archives or products page. It gets a lot of attention from your readers so it is important that you think hard about where you place it.
You can decide to place the navigation bar either at the very top of the page or in between the banner and the body.
Reasons to put Main Navigation Bar Between the Body and the Header
Some websites has the navigation bar between the banner and the body. This has many benefits:
- Readers do not need to scroll all the way to the top of the page to go to another section on the website. It seems like a small point, but for a lot of people flicking the finger to roll the mouse wheel is considered work.
- The navigation bar gets more eye time. If your navigation bar is at the very top of the page then even a single increment of the mouse wheel hides the navigation bar. A navigation bar under the banner gives the reader more opportunity to jump to another page even if they are half way down a post.
- A navigation bar serves as a perfect divider between sections. Header, navigation bar, body is classic website design. It feels natural, has been around for ages and offends nobody.
A Reason to Put Your Navigation Bar at the Top of the Page
Some websites have the navigation bar under the banner which has the advantages mentioned above. But there are popular websites that have the navigation bar at the very top of the page.
Why would you want to put the navigation bar at the very top of the page?
The answer has to do with advertising and eyeball movements.
- If your website has an advertisement in the header section then it only makes sense to put the navigation bar at the very top of the page. This ensures that the reader’s eye must move over the advertisement before navigating to another page.
- By placing the navigation bar at the top of the page you increase the number of times readers see advertisements. And of course, the more times they see them the greater the chance they will click them.
- If you want to direct your readers towards advertisements in the header you should consider placing the navigation bar at the top of the page. You force readers to notice the advertisement as they move between content and navigation.
Of course for this layout change to make a difference the fundamental rule still applies. You need engaging content. You need readers to want to go to other pages on your website. You need them to be interested enough in what you are saying to put in the extra effort of scrolling all the way to the top to visit your about or contact page. Without good content, it does not matter where your navigation bar is located. Without good content you do not need a navigation bar because the only button readers will be pressing is the close button.