Usability research on sticky menus

Sticky (or fixed) menus are not so uncommon nowadays, and for a large website that relies heavily on catalog and search functionality it may be a good choice to aid the user.

In past few months, there were so many clients who asked us to make a website with a sticky menu. It is latest trend in web design; Long scrolling pages and sticky navigation. I was wondering if there was any research done on how users re-act to them?

Usability Study

However, Hyrum Denney did some usability testing on sticky menus and shared the results.

Research Conditions

For the study, He created two test websites that were nearly identical. The only difference was that one of them had standard navigation and the other had sticky navigation. Forty participants were timed in completing five tasks on the first website. Then they were asked to complete five different tasks on the second website. The order of the tasks was alternated between users to balance out the familiarity factor. The websites were tested on desktop machines, and participants were not told the differences between the websites until the end of their session. Data was not analyzed until the testing was completed. The results of the study yielded two interesting conclusions.

Results

1. Sticky Menus are 22% quicker to navigate

The data from the study indicated that participants were able to find what they were looking for quicker when they didn’t have to scroll back to the top of the page. 22% might not seem like a big number, but it can have a big impact on visitors. According to this data, sticky navigation could cut 36 seconds off of a five-minute visit to a website. Of course, keeping visitors on the page longer is only a benefit if you are enhancing the user experience along with it. Forcing people to dig through a website to find something does not qualify as such.

2. 100% Preferred Sticky Menus Without Knowing Why

At the end of each session, users were asked whether they noticed the difference between the two user interfaces. No one was able to identify it. The changes were subtle, and none of the users caught on because they were focused on completing their tasks. Participants were then asked whether one of the websites felt easier to use. Six of the 40 participants had no preference, but of the 34 that did have a preference, 100% of them indicated that the website with the sticky navigation was easier or faster to use. Many comments along this line were made, such as “I don’t know how the websites were different, but I felt like I was spending a lot less time clicking with the first one.” Such comments indicated overwhelming favor for the sticky navigation.

More on sticky navigations can be found in his full article.

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