I work for a company that has several sites. They have requested I put links to the smaller sites in a drop down menu on the menu bar. Is this a good practice or should they be seperate. Also there are already links to the other sites on the sidebar.
I've seen this done in two different ways--organization between sister sites.
- The drop down menu as you mentioned e.g. http://www.nike.com/
- List all the sites (less scalable) in an auxiliary type header e.g. http://www.bbc.com/news, Google, http://www.popsugar.com/
Both these solutions work if all the sites in the family share a common header or a visual language. It breaks down when one site goes rogue. In fact, BBC did an excellent case study on exactly how they approach this type of problem among other complexities (e.g. content type, localization): http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/bbcinternet/2010/02/a_new_global_visual_language_f.html
I have never seen it on the sidebar, and I can think of a couple of reasons why I wouldn't put it there: - Horizontal real-estate is more expensive than vertical real-estate - A sidebar has a strong precedent of being used for local navigation - If I am a user, and I am looking to switch context site-wide, the header is the place I'd begin looking. The sidebar is halfway down the screen.
It's all about setting user expectations. Most users assume that clicking a menu item will take them somewhere within the website. There are plenty of website examples though where even clicking on a main navigation menu item takes a user to a different domain (the Ubuntu QA site on Stack Exchange is an example). The best examples though mimic the previous website's design within the new website as much as possible. Sometimes though that's not an option. In those cases, give the user some sort of visual cue that the menu item is an outbound link. This is commonly communicated with an arrow leaving the top right of a square.