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I have a client who has a menu with 14 items. Currently my client dropped menu items like contact, home, about, blog, etc. into the footer. To me this is bad design as I would assume most users will not look in the footer for items normally present in the main nav. The majority of the menu items are the various store categories.

If I try to insert all items onto one line the font and spacing has to be so small it is a bit difficult to read.

What is the best way, in regards to UX, for large menus? Should I combine all of the various store items into one drop-down or a mega menu design? Is there an ideal number of of main menu items for best UX?

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I found a few good articles on this topic, one is a study (it's a little bit older) suggesting that perhaps more menu items isn't a bad thing. Although it mentions the importance of items being clearly labelled, and I guess this is the challenge if you are reducing size.

If there's too many items to fit and it's essential that they are present, how about a slightly less traditional navigation? Smashing Magazine's 'column' nav comes to mind.

Other than that you could go down the 'mobile first' nav path and implement something like the nav in this article - which also happens to be a relevant article :)

If the site is e-Commerce can they not be seperated into slightly less specific categories and use a mega menu? This should mean the user will find the topic they need very quickly and the mega menu will allow plenty of space to label the individual sections clearly.

  • Thanks for the information. I am leaning toward the Mega Menu and using something like "Store" as the menu item. The Smashing Magazine navigation is interesting and I like the idea but unsure my client would like the idea. Also the mobile first nav is okay but I don't like that approach as it isn't always clear in my opinion. The site using the nav (hamburger) icon does look to contain some useful information. => Thank You Again. – L84 Apr 4 '14 at 1:23
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I've always problem with mega drop down menus, because they force user to choose from a lot of alternatives at the beginning of the whole process of interacting with the website. In my opinion menu at the first nav level should consist of descriptive but the general names, next we should drill down into more detailed information.

Mega drop down menu is alluring pattern but I think sometimes it's misused. It's much harder to scan all items in mega drop down menu and if you use generic terms like "store", "products" as names in menu navigation it won't tell your customer anything about your offer or specific products.

Check this article from KISS metrics: http://blog.kissmetrics.com/common-website-navigation-mistakes

  • Try to group similar items in more general groups to decrease number of first level nav names.

  • Check how your customers are interacting with your website, use Google Analytics to check most visted subpages and put the most visited sites in more attention grabbing places - in horizontal menu put them first from the left.

  • You could repeat information as contact in the footer, it's a good place to put there mail and telephone number it would be accessible to the users from every subpage in the website.

  • Thank you for the info. I read an article once that said large menus detract from UX but the exception is a mega menu, however, I do not know how reliable the source is. I do agree that a mega menu can be overdone. I am going to try a few ideas to keep a simple mega menu. We will see how it works. => – L84 Apr 4 '14 at 23:46

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