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I am new to web development but always had an interest of doing things to enhance UX. For a new project, instead of having a horizontal header with a navigation menu i thought of having a vertical menu about 210px wide in width and height of 600px.

The homepage looks great but for other important pages such as the product, services, about us pages, the sidebar takes away horizontal space therefore requiring me to take away width from the 960px wide container to display content in.

Being new to this, I am not sure if it's a good idea. Any advice on how to go about this? Any websites that come to mind that have a similar design that I am looking to accomplish?

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From a pure UX standpoint that type of menu can be justified if you expect your visitors to:

  • browse multiple sections during the same visit
  • rely heavily on the navigation to find what they're looking for.

Documentation and wiki sites are good examples of this where linking is key.

I think it comes down to is worth using that much space for your menu? Knowing that even if accessibility is important, content is king and related content immediately available is always a solid asset.

Hope that helps.

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Was there a reason you decided to have a sidebar menu?

As TotemFlare described, sidebar menus are great for content driven sites like articles, blogs, ecommerce, etc. Mainly because they help you browse more efficiently and further assist you in finding other content.

They are also used quite often for web apps such as zendesk and mailchimp to provide multiple layers of navigation.

However, if you're sacrificing screen real estate to simply have a cool looking sidebar menu, it's up to you to decide the benefits of having such a navigation.

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Both TotemFlare's and Chris's suggestions are valid. The question is for what platform are you designs intended: desktop, tablet, or mobile. If the sidebar navigation is for desktop, you have more control over maybe hiding the sidebar navigation on selection. Tablet represents another set of challenges like do you plan to show the sidebar as swimlane or some other form of content interaction.

Mobile is basically designing for hierarchical layouts.

Also, are your project across all the devices? You'll find your answer when you consider the scope of the project.

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Consider these 2 thoughts:

A) Many users will have a wide screen monitor. So for them the horizontal space is not really an issue. Instead the vertical space is where the premium is at.

B) Secondly, your side menu can easily collapse or slide in/out, thus effectively saving you the horizontal space you are concerned about.

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Most of the websites probably choose a horizontal header because it is commonly considered that this visual organization of website elements is more consistent with human perception.

However, an outside the norm approach, when used correctly, can become a memorable experience, thanks to its rare occurence.

It is not important if the navigation menu is a sidebar or a horizontal header. What matters is to make it simple, unintrusive and with an easy to understand structure, like an invisible guide that shows you the way throughout the site without making you think.

If you manage to achieve this effect through the means of a sidebar menu, go for it.

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