There was a time when 1 easy tip on where to place the menu was a sentence that could not be written. That was a time when all websites were viewed on a desktop, or laptop machines and the viewing rules were clear.
In that time we could create pixel perfect layouts that had a set framework to present in and where the menu went could be very much a design choice as well as a functional one. Not only that, but slower bandwidth speeds gave the viewer time to work out what was what and decide what to do next. Perhaps even time to appreciate the design – we might hope.
That time has gone.
Now when a website might be viewed on a massive of range of devices from TVs to smartphones and 4G is giving us speeds on our mobile handset that one time could only have been dreamt of down a copper wire, things are just not the same.
Websites are now viewed on the go and even on the desktop, the patience is just not there. Anything beyond a 10 second delay and research has shown that users “start thinking about other things”*.
This impatience has the unintended consequence of making the form of the website increasingly standardised for the very good reason that the viewer needs to get to the content they are seeking much faster now than before.
This means that the old design problem of where should the menu be is fading away and the choice is more about colour and form than about location.
The common client wish to create a website that looks different from every other website is a worthy aspiration, but risks flushing money down the drain in the creation of a website that is difficult to understand quickly and which can frustrate the impatient viewer and drive them away.
The menu is of course not the content, but the key to the content. You don’t go into a restaurant and start eating the menu. Like any key, the menu has to be at hand when you need to it to unlock something which is why it is usually in our pocket, or handbag.
The choice is therefore clear and it is a choice of 1. The menu must be where we can easily find it on any device and no matter what the orientation of the device. This means it has to be on top and (ideally) always visible.
Would you like more convincing? Frankly, neither of us has the time.