Chapter 3. Mechanisms of Navigation

"Just wait, Gretel, until the moon rises, and then we shall see the crumbs of bread which I have strewn about, they will show us our way home again. When the moon came they set out, but they found no crumbs, for the many thousands of birds which fly about in the woods and fields had picked them all up."

Brothers Grimm Hansel and Gretel

A navigational mechanism is a link or group of links that behave in a similar way and have a similar appearance. They are the tools and devices of navigation systems.

Sometimes a site's structure suggests a particular mechanism, such as a horizontal navigation bar with a site's top-level categories. Navigation mechanisms should synch up with the site's structure, and there may be negotiation between the two: a change in your structure might bring about a change in your navigation and vice-versa. For example, if your site has 20 top-level categories, a navigation bar may not be appropriate. Instead, a directory-style display or dynamic menus will probably work better.

This chapter surveys common mechanisms individually and, for the most part, stripped of overall context. In reality, these mechanisms come together to form a total navigation logic for your site. But first it's important to understand the mechanics of navigation.


Step navigation allows people to move sequentially through pages. It often consists of a text label and an arrow, and is accompanied by a link to move backward in the series as well. ...

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