A thin line between a lot or a little

Having too many items in the navigation bar can overwhelm users and make it difficult for them to find what they are looking for. On the other hand, having too few items can make it difficult for users to navigate the site and find the information they need. Damned if you do, damned if you don't. But there is hope!

From a UX standpoint, the best number of topics in a website's navigation bar can vary depending on the website's specific context and goals. However, as a general rule, it is recommended to keep the number of topics in the navigation bar to around 5-7 items. And of course there is a reason for that.

In addition to the number of items, the labeling and organization of the topics in the navigation bar are also important factors to consider. Labels should be clear and concise, and in language that is familiar and understandable to the target audience. The topics should also be organized in a logical and intuitive way and reflect the hierarchy and structure of the content on the site.

Ultimately, the purpose of the navigation bar is to provide users with a clear and easy-to-use path to the information they need, so it's important to consider the user's perspective when designing and organizing it.

Miller's law

You probably already guessed it. Because it was of course good old George Miller who discovered this in 1956. “The magical number seven, plus or minus two”. People are quite similar in one respect, Miller proved, because the short-term memory of the vast majority of people briefly retains seven elements.”

So the idea of ​​keeping the number of items in the navigation bar to around 5-7 items is based on Miller's law, a well-known concept in cognitive psychology. Miller's law states that the human brain can only hold about 7 (plus or minus 2) pieces of information in short-term memory at any given time.

Miller's 3 key points

  • Don't be blinded by that “magic” number 7. Not all design decisions need to be justified based on this. What doesn't feel logical is often right.
  • Ensure that content is presented to the user in manageable chunks. This helps keep the content understandable and memorable. Also chunking .
  • Use progressive to minimize the cognitive load for new users. So make sure not to present all the information at once, but to hide some parts behind buttons or menus.
Layout of a navigation bar

This means that when users are presented with too many items to choose from in the navigation bar, they may struggle to remember them all and become overwhelmed or frustrated. On the other hand, if there are too few items, users may have a hard time finding the information they need or may feel like the website doesn't give them enough options. More about that here.

Therefore, it helps to keep the number of items in the navigation bar at around 5-7 to achieve a balance between providing users with enough options and not overwhelming that user with too much information. However, it is important to note that this is a general guideline and there may be situations where it makes sense to deviate from this rule, based on the specific needs and goals of the website and its users.

Closing comments

When it comes to designing a website's navigation bar, remember that less is more. Keep Miller's Law in mind and aim for 5-7 items to avoid overwhelming the user. Feel free to deviate if you think it will benefit you, but make sure it is a well-considered decision.

Do you also have questions about your navigation bar or other UX design concepts?

Contact us below and we will look at your design together.


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