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I am using FullStory to study some user behavior on some client sites and have noticed a trend in a few client sites where users will opt to use the links in the footer navigation over the main menu.

My initial reaction would be to assert they are doing so because they feel it has a lower interaction cost than the main menu or because the footer nav is simpler.

It could also be that after scrolling to the bottom of the page it seems like a lower friction action to use the bottom navigation.

Unfortunately I can't ask these users who exhibit the patterned behavior, so instead, I wanted to reach out here to see what other UX professionals might have to say on the matter.

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First, I think it is my due diligence to mention that without asking users in one way or another all you can rely on is speculation and generic user behavior patterns. Qualitative research is needed to answer this question better.

To answer better would require more info, such as images of the 2 navigation options, but I will offer a few possibilities here:

Less Work in Context

As you mention, if a user has read the page and is at the bottom of the screen, they will then consider what they want to do next. The convenience of having the footer in front of them will more likely lead them to interact with it.

Word Choice

We communicate through words and word choice is key. If the terms used in the main menu differ from the footer, it could lead to user preference.

Its possible the navigation terms in the footer provide more information scent (fancy $5 term for links or buttons closely matching what a user is looking for). If the footer uses terms that users are more familiar with, they will likely use it more.

Interaction Excise

In some cases, main menus require interaction: click or hover to display the menu, click or hover through a series of dropdowns, multi-click iterations to navigate through categories, and more. This is effort.

Compare this to a footer, which likely displays all links in a list; no need to do anything other than click on the name of the page you want. If a user can put in less effort for the same result, they will.

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I agree with you on the second point you brought out. After scrolling to the bottom of a page, any person would use bottom navigation over going back to the top and navigate to other pages.

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