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Refresh your website with a more logical header panel

I’m a big fan of making constant small improvements to websites, but it seems that few companies realise how straightforward it is to make such changes. When a new idea is suggested, most companies seem to make a mental note that it might be part of the ‘next website redesign’, whenever that might be. Most website designers are surprised at how rarely their clients come back to them to make small design improvements.

One of the easiest things to experiment with, and improve, is the header panel across the top of your website. The chances are that this panel is sitewide and part of a standard template, so making changes will be quick and easy.

It’s become standard practice on corporate websites for the navigation to be across the top of the page. ‘Sidebar’ navigation tends to have disappeared or is used for secondary links. This is fine – indeed, anything which visitors expect is fine – but it can be messy. That’s because there are often two sets of links crammed into one row (and format): products and services, and general corporate information.

For example, you might have a horizontal row of navigational links such as Products, Services, Applications, About Us, Contact and News. All or most of these may unfold menus. You may even have put in simple links like “Search”. But are these all compatible with one another? It is possible to split links and menus into separate rows, and this is something you might want to try.

I just spent half an hour leafing through the websites of the biggest companies in the country. It’s quite fun, I’d recommend it. I didn’t find a single one which leaped off the page as being brilliant in this respect, although most were pretty decent, as they should be with the money which probably went into them. GSK is a reasonable example of how to separate the “Site Contents” menu titles from the simple links like “Contact us” and “Search”. Unilever has a neat presentation too. Taylor Wimpey takes a different approach, separating out “things you might have come here for” from “background stuff”.

If you can find a site whose header design makes more logical sense than your own, it really shouldn’t be a big task for a website designer to apply the same principles to your site. You don’t have to wait until the day when the whole site is no longer fit for purpose and you’re forced to start again from scratch. Indeed, constant improvement can push that day much further into the future.