[thelist] Drop-down menu items

Jake Stetser jake.stetser at headhunter.net
Fri Jan 5 12:20:11 CST 2001

If you're really married to the idea of having this script, make sure you
have alternate navigation for the millions and millions of people who a)
surf with javascript off, b) use alternative browsers (text only, audio,
braille?), c) may have that odd version of IE or Netscape that doesn't do
the Javascript correctly...

He's right on several counts. The big sites don't use it. Though you
shouldn't feel hemmed in by the big sites, you should know _why_ you buck
trends and better be prepared for a good reason to do it. The reason most
sites don't use drop-down menus is that there are better ways to do
navigation. Drop-down menus are task-oriented, not location-oriented.

When you say "degrade gracefully" does that mean the navigation menu
disappears or it looks like a regular set of navigation?

Think about this quote I found, "We don't have a good language to talk about
this kind of thing. In most people's vocabularies, design means veneer...
But to me, nothing could be further from the meaning of design. Design is
the fundamental soul of a man-made creation." - Steve Jobs.

Design isn't just a pretty look and it isn't just usability. Design is
crafting people's experience in a way that makes them believe in the goal
you want to achieve.

Nielsen is a usability guru, not an artist. The people at SFMOMA are
artists, not usability gurus. Being a web developer/designer often means
wearing two hats.

So I say, if you really want the drop-down menus, great! But recognize that
they do violate a bunch of usability principles and standard convention, and
ask yourself, "Do I _need_ this to communicate what I'm trying to

If so, great. If not, make it better.

Jacob Stetser <jake.stetser at headhunter.net>
Website Development Manager
P: 770.349.2906 

-----Original Message-----
From: Andy Olsen [mailto:andyo at tds.net]
Sent: Friday, January 05, 2001 12:11 PM
To: thelist at lists.evolt.org
Subject: [thelist] Drop-down menu items

What's the rap on drop-down menu items?

I've got a client who requested this. So, I went to 
http://www.webreference.com/dhtml/hiermenus/index.html and got their script 
and modified it. I finally got it worked out and their tech guy started 
saying it was a dumb idea.

Basically, this guy is saying that a) the Big Site don't use it and b) 
Jakob Nielsen says don't use eye candy or unusual navigation items. He is a 
Nielsen acolyte and says we should do what al the big sites do so people 
see things that are not new and they are comfortable with. He also says 
that it is distracting for people when they mouse over the menu on the way 
elsewheres and the menu pops up.

My point is that the techniques were dropped for some time because of the 
shaky implementation of javascript. Now, however, JS implementation is 
getting better, and 83% or more of the users out there have browsers that 
can handle this. The menus can be built to degrade gracefully for other

So, why do the big sites not use this? Is it a disaster?

And, for the love of Pete, why is Jakob Nielsen's site so ghastly if he is 
such a guru? 

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