Adventures in Navigation


I’ve been working on the redesign of my library’s website. The biggest improvement will be its responsiveness. No longer will the site force horizontal scrolling on tablet or smartphones. It’ll rejigger (what? that’s the technical term isn’t it?) the content so that it fits the device width. Since a recent study revealed that more people access the web via mobile devices than desktops for the first time (source: The incomparable David Lee King), this feature is no longer a “nice to have” but rather a “must have”. So that was an easy decision. The toughest decision? What to call the confounded items on the navigation bar.

  • Will Services mean anything to patrons?
  • Should we include an item for each age group (Adults, Teens, Kids)?
  • Should we have one item for databases and downloads? Again, do those two words mean anything to patrons?

These are but 3 (or 4 if you want to split hairs) questions we’ve been struggling to answer. And in order to aid us in our struggle, we’ve looked at many a library website. Here are a few of the standouts, each doing a little something different.

Topeka Shawnee

Topeka Shawnee Nav Bar

Home of the aforementioned David Lee King, they stripped things down big time. A patron has three main options:

  1. Check it out
  2. Download it
  3. Research it

I’m not too sure of the secondary nav they slipped in above the main nav. I used to think it was cheating, but now I’m not so sure. It’s a nice way to offer options without cluttering the page.


Phili Public Library Nav Bar

They put the catalog search in the menus, which was a very interesting tack. Like Topeka, they simplified things with a Big 3. But theirs contain sublinks that offer a little more explanation:

  1. Find
  2. Explore
  3. Ask

They also have a secondary nav, albeit an more simple one. I found it interesting that this directing of traffic seemed to be a trend.


Chattanooga Public Library Nav Bar

Here’s a more traditional looking nav bar. We’re leaning towards this because it’s less jarring for patrons. Sure the Big 3 looks nice, but will patrons know that’s the main nav? I’m not so sure.

  1. Catalog
  2. Resources
  3. Services
  4. Events
  5. Books
  6. Kids
  7. Teens
  8. Local History
  9. 4th Floor

They also use some of the names, (Resources, Services) that I’m worried about. Still, I think that the items are mostly self-explanatory.


Now, now, I can’t go and post a picture of ours, if it’s not done, can I?

No matter what we end up going with, something that I’m going to insist upon is education. I think educating patrons as to what they’ll find where on the site is often overlooked. Social Media posts, flyers, demos, I think things like that will go a long way in making the change successful. But then again, isn’t education always a big part of success?


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