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What is the top navigation bar called when it is common to a suite or network of sites with a common login, as in StackExchange, 37 Signals (Basecamp, Backpack, etc.), or Google Apps for Your Domain?

I'm talking about the navigation that on this site inclues the StackExchange dropdown, login, username, and search tool. What does StackExchange call it? 37 Signals? Google? What's a commonly understood phrase for common element?

I see in one thread that Microsoft calls it the "eyebrow navigation," but this is hardly a common term, and it has ambiguous meaning, since it's also a stand-in for breadcrumbs.

Note: I'm not talking about notification bars, butter bars, or the "flash" notification that appears temporarily at the very top to alert users to action results or company news.

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I should clarify … there are two things that I commonly see: 1) a bar that let's you jump from one site to another in a family/suite of sites (as in the black bar on 37 Signals), and 2) a bar that lets you see your notifications, messages, user profile, etc. (as in the navigation immediately below the black bar on 37 Signals & StackExchange sites). In the second case, it may or may not show universal login, but the UI is identical. Do this have a distinct name? – Taj Moore Jun 26 '11 at 21:53
up vote 2 down vote accepted

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."

(note: this also appears as an answer on the linked 'eyebrow nav' question)

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Global Navigation. Although that's more of a contextual term, "global nav" is pretty commonly considered to be the highest level of navigation.

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Ah, but "global nav" can also refer simply to the navigation that is common to all pages of a particular site, as opposed to all sites within a larger family of sites. Using that definition, the 37 Signals' has a different "global nav" for Basecamp than it does for Backpack, whereas the black-bar navigation is the same for all sites within the suite. So, if "global nav" could be used for either nav bar, the ambiguity is problematic. I'm inclined to reserve global nav for within a single site. – Taj Moore Jun 26 '11 at 21:47

First thing that comes to mind that kind of covers it is "Syndicate header". Made it up though.

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It sounds pretty official. You should run with it, haha – Nic Jun 24 '11 at 18:58

Universal Navigation

You can view this post What is "eyebrow navigation"? not related, but here you will get some clue about eyebrow navigation.

Most of the people seem to agree that there’s something called "Head Navigation", “universal” , “global” ,"Main" navigation, which is the set of choices you see on every page of the site.

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Thanks for pointing out that these are all terms for navigation on "every page of the site." I arrived at the same conclusion independently (see comment to Global Navigation answer). And yes, the "eyebrow navigation" post was what got me wondering about a term people actually use. LOL – Taj Moore Jun 26 '11 at 21:55

These remind me of former "webrings" (remember these? If not, you're probably a so-called digital native).

There are no official names for these. You are free to call them what you want.

I would go for a "multisite navigation system" as:

  • a navigation menu is an atomic system
  • each link points to websites that are grouped according to some business logic or family of complementary interests. "Multisite" in opposition to an "internal" navigation system, usually implied by the term "menu".
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