A lot of websites nowadays, admittedly more so in desktop view, (which is now seen by fewer thanks to the world of mobile) hide the navigation bar when you scroll down. This is a good thing as it reveals more of the page without the distraction of menu items you do not wish to see for the time being. Whilst the navigation is very important, the content is arguably more important. The menu is then shown again when the user scrolls up.

This all seems fair enough. When the user scrolls down, we assume that they are reading the contents of the page. If the user does not scroll, then the page's content does not extend beyond 100% of the height of the viewport, therefore the menu is not hidden (as they have not scrolled).

What I do not understand though (we will get to my question eventually :-) is that these site's do not show the navigation when you go to click or where you hover where the menu would be. You physically will have to scroll up before you see the navigation bar again. This seems like such a schoolboy error, but a lot of websites are doing this. Not showing the nav bar unless you scroll up.

I am assuming a worse case scenario, that the user is 'super thick', and that they may think that the site is broken.

"When I take my mouse to the top/right/left of the screen the menu does not appear?"

I do not think it is too realistic to assume that they will say the above; conclude the site’s functionality is not providing them with what they need and go elsewhere.

Do we therefore think that the menu should be shown even when (we think) the user is about to ask for it?

  • My own opinion is that if you have to hide your header menu on desktop your header is too big. Doing it on mobile is fine as each mobile OS has native features that act the same way and will feel similar. – Yates Mar 8 at 12:17

No.

You could add this behavior, and it's not so abnormal as to be confusing or disorienting or confusing, but I suggest avoiding it, for one main reason:

User Expectation

You used the tag 'User Expectation' in your question, and this is a key point. Good design meets user expectations. However we have arrived in this position, the design trend is for the pattern you described and not for the one you proposed.

Unnecessary Thinking

Steve Krug suggests "don't make users think (unnecessarily) and by designing away from the trend, you increase the potential for unnecessary questions in the mind of the user. (e.g. in the quite likely scenario where they accidentally invoke the menu)

Mental Models

Also, because the design trend is to scroll to see the menu, you risk users simply not being able to find the interaction. This is because in the mental model of the user, the menu isn't just hiding off screen, it's back up at the top of the page, which is why they scroll up to get back to it. The current pattern exploits this by interpreting this scroll as a desire to see the menu.

Because of this users are unlikely to start mousing for a menu, unless the find it accidentally.

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