Unlike the the design of a CD-ROM or a computer program, a browser of some sort will probably be used to navigate through your site. A number of existing navigational features such as the ability to open (URL) addresses, move Back and Forward, utilize a set of Bookmarks or locations in one's History, and the like are already available. The judicious use of these and other carefully developed features working in harmony with the content and design will work towards an effortless movement through your site. By building context (such as with diagrams like the one below), one's location is easily understood. And by including navigational options (such as the aforementioned image-map, a sequential link, and a frames-based navigational bar included in this site), improved flexibility allows users to follow their own train of thought.
There are a number of principles to complement the variety of navigational approaches available. In Web Navigation: Designing the User Experience, Jennifer Fleming, who is the source for the links found at the bottom of each of these pages, has suggested that navigation should:
In Information Architecture, the authors explain some of the types of navigational systems. They start off with the hierarchical system which follows that the differences between a global versus a local navigational system can be understood. They explain a page like this, full of embedded links, as an ad hoc navigational system. "The most common and important navigational elements are those that are integrated into the content-bearing pages of the web-site." These are, more often than not, navigation bars and pull-down menus. A Guided Tour can provide a method of overview. And a trend where a separate navigational window is generated by a java script or applet provides yet another option.
In a study on "Web Site Usability," Jared Spool found two major issues related to navigability: 1) Users didn't have the specific (business area) knowledge necessary to effectively make sense of the information there, and 2) The site structure was not clear (see the Organization of Content). Also, except for self-referential pages full of undifferentiated information, they found that frames-based navigation (such as the navigational bar to the left) to be an effective tool in aiding users in finding their way clearly through a site. A Table of Contents can prove quite effective for those so inclined. Surprisingly, they found navigational bars to be more effective at the top and bottom of pages. They also stressed the need for some sort of indicator as to one's present location within a given hierarchy. And, perhaps as a more detailed version of Tables of Content, Site Maps gave some indication of effectiveness.
More information on navigation can be found at: