Designing Your Navigation Bar—Making a Website that Works for You Part III

by Sr. Susan Wolf, SND on April 5, 2016

in website

PPTNavigationBarsThe navigation bar on your parish website is the tool visitors use to find information that is contained on interior pages of the website. Titles that are clear and understandable are the goal. The titles and the subtitles below them should reflect a logical structure that makes sense to the visitor and helps him/her to make a choice quickly.

Determine your navigation bar titles before you get a designer. Some niche designers (i.e. those who work with a specific type of website) provide a template with the headings already selected and a customer who has not thought through their content often fits their content into the categories given. Sometimes this works and sometimes it doesn’t. If you already have your own ideas, the designer will be happy to use those instead.

The best way to proceed is to keep the navigation bar simple. Usually with a simple navigation bar, the titles headline single column drop-down menus, although some websites use multi-column drop-down menus. Think about what your content is and what your user wants to access quickly. If your navigation starts to get too complicated, it is probably because you have not sufficiently organized the content.

Getting Organized

One method to achieve the clarity and simplicity that you want in your navigation bar is to put a list of all your potential pages on a spread sheet and organize them into groups that make sense. Keep working the groups until you come up with a logical structure. Get input from others. Find obvious, familiar titles that fit each group and use them on your navigation bar. This exercise will not only help you with the navigation bar, it will also let you know how many pages your website will have. This is another piece of information that will be helpful when you seek a designer.

Some Common User-Friendly Navigation Bar Items

Recommended for a Quality Website:

  • Home (far left on the navigation bar or above the navigation bar usually on the right),
  • Search and Contact (on the right or above the navigation bar)


An ideal simple navigation bar has  a maximum of 10 items-including Home, Search and Contact. Fewer are better. Preferably these are single words with less than 12 characters. If you are using multiple word headings, you will have to limit your items to possibly 4-5 titles depending on space. If you use more titles, you limit readability and overwhelm the visitor with too many choices.

Here are some typical user-friendly, one-word navigation items on parish websites (the order is alphabetical—not necessarily how they will appear on the bar):

  • About
  • Formation
  • Join
  • Liturgy
  • Ministries
  • News
  • Outreach
  • Sacraments
  • Welcome

Sample Parish Navigation Bars

The priorities and needs of every parish are different. Here are seven parish navigation bars. Some are “better” than others in terms of user-friendly. Is there one that you think is more helpful than the others or more engaging? How do you feel about having Contact Us visible on or above the Navigation Bar as opposed to being hidden under a main heading? Are any of these navigation bars using language that is too complicated or indirect? Put your answers and any other comments below. Please refer to the bars by their numbers 1-7 so we all know which one you are discussing. Click on image to view full size


When most of us visit a website, we take the navigation bar for granted unless it doesn’t meet our needs, then we are unhappy and frustrated.  A helpful menu bar suggests that we care about our visitors and want to help them.  Isn’t that the message we all want to give?



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