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Just came across this term in a document I'm reading through, referring to "eyebrow links" in the context of navigation. Presumably it's a form of navigation at the top of the page, but what specifically is this referring to? I've never heard it before (possibly because my daily work isn't in English) and Google doesn't really give me much to go by.

It seems to refer to upper right hand navigation like the "Settings | Help | Sign out" links in Gmail:

eyebrow in Gmail

But what's the origin of this term? And though I sort of get where the "eyebrow" name comes in given that the navigation is at the top of the page above everything else, I'd love to hear what the actual reason is.

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8 Answers

up vote 5 down vote accepted

This page on TechNet talks about changes made to their website:

including “breadcrumbs” or “eyebrow” navigation,

So in this case they are using it as a synonym for breadcrumbs. Other sites I've found also make this link.

I can't find any details of where the name comes from, but your assumption that it's from it's position on the page does seem to be the logical one.

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Good question! It seems to describe either:

  • The breadcrumb navigation
  • The up most set of links

So in the case of this website, if it used breadcrumbs, it would be between these two area's:

alt text

I'd say, logically, it's the up most set of links. When focusing on the content, I really have to move my eyes when I want to focus on that area. The breadcrumbs are usually just above the content, requiring less movement of the eyes.

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Etymologically I'd guess eyebrow navigation would come from anthropomorphising the web page. If the web page is the "face" then the links on top would look like its "eyebrows".

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I agree it's an anthropomorphic term, but would argue it's not the links on top - these are utility links and this would be the part of the head above the eyebrows, so eyebrow nav as breadcrumbs is the most likely explanation. Glad to see it's not a term in common use though! –  Peter Feb 10 '12 at 8:30
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Yes, i do agree with Spoike. The eyebrow term is making reference to a second navigation on top of the main navigation (that would be the eyes). So, the eyebrows would be something with less hierarchy than the main subject, but placed on top of the main subject.

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The common term for that part of a web page would be 'utility navigation'.

"...A customer may want to look up the shipping date of an order, peek at their wish list, or pay for their purchases. That little row of useful links is often called utility navigation. It provides access to subsidiary tools that help the user, but it is not the core reason for the web site."

http://www.adaptivepath.com/ideas/e000048

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I think it's a Microsoft terminology for Breadcrumb.

It crops up in the book Visual Web Developer 2005 express edition for dummies and on their MSDN site as well.

No description for why that's what they call them though.

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I originally came across "eyebrow navigation" in a non-Microsoft document, though. So if it originated there (like "dogfooding" did), I'm curious where and how specifically. –  Rahul May 18 '11 at 15:15
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Editors sometimes try to attract more readers to a story by adding kickers (also called eyebrows) and decks. A kicker is a second head about half the size of the main head, located above a story, such as:

Calls price supports inadequate

Conrad denounces farm bill

Note the traditional kicker does not repeat the subject, but begins with the verb.

I would then surmize that this would be an eyebrow or kicker as a hyperlink.

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I refer to typical upper-right-corner links/elements as "utility" or "lifeline" links/elements. The latter makes sense to me because, if nothing else, a user should be able to navigate and set up a site using just its search form and links for signing up, logging in, language selection, and store/region selection. These links and this general area of the page (for LTR languages) are what the user falls back on when having trouble finding things on a site.

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I think you've misinterpreted the question here. It's not about what you call the top menus, it's about what the term 'eyebrow' navigation means and where the name originated. –  JonW Oct 28 '13 at 21:51
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