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For a number of reasons, having a number of main nav dropdown menus in the top bar isn't feasible. I'm considering making a master site navigation dropdown by clicking a down arrow right next to the site logo (or maybe even the logo itself). Is this so unorthodox that it will cause people to not get it?

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migrated from stackoverflow.com Mar 12 '13 at 13:27

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Maybe. Make a mock up of the screen and ask some friends to navigate to a different page on your site. It should answer your question. –  VARAK Mar 12 '13 at 13:21
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Google tried this a while ago - it didn't work out. –  Noein Mar 12 '13 at 18:30
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The short answer to your question is no. As Dominik said, the 'primary logo as a link' method should return users to the home page. Every functional website you can imagine does this. Example: UX Stack Exchange Logo goes to Home

However, if you want to put a sub-menu ('notification', 'hot topics', 'new' etc.) in the upper left near the logo, that will work just fine so long as it is a separate element from the logo itself. Examples: Dropdown Menu shows some content, not a full site navigation Facebook notifications icon is next to the logo

One exception to this is the app Vine. In Vine, you tap anywhere on the top navigation bar and it pulls a dropdown menu down. This is different, however, because the logo is located in the center, not the corner. Also it's an ultra-minimal video iOS app, not a 'regular' website. Screenshots: enter image description here

If you want to be innovative, follow VARAK's advice and make hi-fi mockups and ask friends to navigate and iterate from there. Otherwise stick to what people know— the logo will go to the home page, a dropdown nearby can show secondary info, and a full site nav should remain on a nav bar to the upper right or a nav column on the left or right side of the screen.

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Thanks. The Stackexchange utility menu is an interesting idea that I want to use somewhere but probably won't be able to fit into this project. I'm imagining something kind of like Facebook's three icon system where one of the icons is an inbox, another is notifications, and a third is navigation. I just need to make sure that won't be confusing. –  JClaussFTW Mar 16 '13 at 1:15
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I think it depends on the nature of the website. Should it be a tool - then I think, in some situations, you can do this, especially if switching between pages linked from the dropdown means navigating to completely different, functionally/essentially separate areas.

Examples:

  • This (UX.SE) site can be an example to some extent. You do have a logo below the Stack Exchange dropdown, but it's a logo of a functionally/essentially separate area devoted to UX. The dropdown in top left shows notifications, but could be used for navigating between other StackExchange sites.

  • Themeforest (http://themeforest.net/) & its family - the same situation, but fully implemented in tis case.

  • This Google family tools layout version: http://www.seroundtable.com/google-new-bar-14389.html

However, I wouldn't say it's best UX, and definitely not for navigating between content pages of the same site.

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To expand upon what dominik said, if this is an application that people will use repeatedly (a utility), then you might be able to get away with this. If this is a website with content, I'd stear clear of this option.

There's a lot of hurdles to overcome to make this work - the obvious being that a logo as a dropdown is extremely atypical (and there's a good chance the down caret will just look like a part of the logo). You're also hiding the navigation entirely, which misses the point what navigation's role today is, namely providing the user with an overview of what to expect on your site.

If you are extremely worried about a significant number of nav items, you probably have too many nav items. They're probably too low level, so bundle them up into some higher level hierarchy to cut them down.

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This approach certainly can be successful, but a number of factors will determine how successful. The logo should be, as much as possible, obviously a drop-down control. So the symbolism (iconography) will help (down arrow or the 3-bar symbol or whatever is currently most meaningful), as will other visual cues about the control (press-ability indicated by raised effect or shadow).

The drop-down's relationship with the sum-total of its page (context) is a factor: if the page is busy with buttons and headings and sidebars and panels, etc., the drop-down will tend to get lost, it won't stand out as something navigationally significant. If it's the only pressable thing on the page it can't help be noticed as significant. And if the drop-down or the top-bar on which it resides is fixed to the top of the page (doesn't scroll) it's significance is also increased.

This approach is unconventional enough to require early testing in order home in on the factors that will make it work, but it definitely can be made to work.

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