Navigation is such a vital piece of your website. It provides your users with a tool to move around and discover your content. As web professionals, we use navigation to predefine a structural organization of website content.
Jakob Nielsen, web usability guru, suggests that:
Without structural links, pages become orphans that are not contextualized:
Amen, brother. A well-constructed and contextualized navigation for your website can make or break your users' experience. Too much navigational information will confuse the user, and not enough will confuse the user. There's a middle ground, and it's different for every website.
At my company, we primarily build websites for - or in support of - newspapers. Newspapers have a long-standing traditional navigation structure, but they're optimized for print. We hold the responsibility to translate these navigational structures into something useful for web users.
It's easy to see how vital a well-constructed navigation can be to the success of your website. Ultimately, it's your job to make sure the user understands the website structure and is not prohibited in any fashion from doing so. Barriers include informational overload, readability, and - for the sake of this article - technological hurdles.
Enhancing the user experience
- the script successfully fills a behavioral gap not intended to be filled by XHTML or CSS
- the script takes into account browser inconsistencies and attempts to avoid problems associated with them
- core navigational elements are established structurally through XHTML
Now, there are many stable CSS alternatives to providing behavioral functionality for navigation, but I'm not going to get into them.
Providing the user experience
As I've pointed out above, doing so would be in direct violation of several principles in that:
- the script is not simply filling a behavioral gap, it is providing a solution that is normally suited for structural markup with XHTML
The effect on search engine optimization
If you're starting from scratch, a good approach is to build your site's structure and navigation using only HTML. Then, once you have the site's pages, links, and content in place, you can spice up the appearance and interface with AJAX. Googlebot will be happy looking at the HTML, while users with modern browsers can enjoy your AJAX bonuses.
The mobile effort
If you're truly interested in delivering a quality mobile web product, read Cameron Moll's book, Mobile Web Design, and give Pete a shout.
Performance and page load times