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I've noticed that several websites — especially universities and web development sites — have recently started placing mega-menus in their footers.

Here are some examples of what I mean:

UPenn mega footer


Simmons Graduate School of Library and Information Science mega footer


Simmons Graduate School of Library and Information Science mega footer -- mobile size


AndyRutledge.com mega footer

On the positive side, these menus:

  • give users a place to go once they get to the bottom of the page.
  • present navigation options without interfering with the main content.
  • can be customized for the current page

On the negative side, these menus:

  • are often duplicates of navigation found at the top of the page.
  • can make the user keep scrolling to see if there's additional content below the large footer (especially on mobile-responsive pages).

The increasing prevalence of such footers implies that there must be some research supporting their use, but I haven't yet encountered any. Have you?

For sites with enough content to support their use, should mega-footers be used or not?
(If there's a threshold based on the footer's size, how big is too big?)

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> The increasing prevalence of such footers implies that there must be some research supporting their use or a manager said "x have a mega footer so I want one too". –  Ray Britton May 16 '13 at 13:36
    
How big is too big? That's a broad question, and cannot be answered imo. –  Bart Gijssens May 16 '13 at 13:37
    
What does "good UX" mean? In what context? for what user? trying to perform what tasks? –  Alex Feinman May 16 '13 at 15:53
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marked as duplicate by Bart Gijssens, Matt Obee, Mervin Johnsingh, Charles Wesley, JohnGB May 16 '13 at 16:14

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

3 Answers

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The increasing prevalence of such footers implies that there must be some research supporting their use, but I haven't yet encountered any. Have you?

I think you're placing too much emphasis on the role of research as a driver of design principles. I would say that these things emerge from designer intuition, and proliferate if they don't cause serious problems, or interfere with other ideas.

The footer in particular is cheap real-estate. Nobody minds how long a page is (up to the point where it starts affecting loading time), so you might as well put something there.

Basically you can roughly subdivide the page into three sections from top to bottom: Navigation, Content and Footer.

The Navigation should cater to the primary use cases (Something is wrong, I want to get out of here, I want to go back, I want to try something else)

The Content to the secondary use cases (I'm where I want to be, I want to do something with this object/content, I want to see something related to this content).

Once you've dealt with those, you've eliminated the possibility that the user is unhappy and that she is happy, so you can cater to the few users who are:

  • Patient
  • Looking for something else

These are the users who are willing to read the instruction manual, the ones who'll go on a course to learn something, will ask someone for help with a ticket machine, etc. If you can give them an overview of information that costs some investment, but will yield good results in return, that's another 5% or so of users that find what they're looking for.

The only potential problem (as you say) is that the user mistakes the footer for content and keeps scrolling, but that's a pretty simple thing to communicate in design.

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From my experience this is primarily used as an SEO play as you can link to your whole site with keyword-rich anchor text.

It is also a great place to put "orphan" pages that dont get linked to elsewhere on the site like privacy policy, copyright, etc.

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You mean like whitehouse.gov?

Personally, I love the feel of a website when it has menus and links on top and bottom. When I'm on my phone, I'd hate to read a page, then have to scroll back to the top to find the navigation.

Also, typically, the bottom contains links which are more descriptive, along with extra links such as sitemap, toa, and copyright info. The mega-menu version with the dramatic color difference makes them look homely, however, this is only useful for some websites. It really depends on the whole web layout and what you are trying to achieve, but typically it is not a negative aspect of a website, or it would not be so popular.

Also, this is great for SEO. So it works for a more pleasing look to both the search engines, and the users.

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