Jakob Nielsen has a recent post on what he calls “Mega Drop-Down Menus.” I previously blogged on this trend as well, originally calling them “sitemap menus” and then “ribbon navigation.” Nielson also draws a parallel to MS Word’s “ribbon” navigation in his post, so I guess I can’t be wrong. :-) A case of great minds thinking alike?
Overall, Neilsen likes such menus. But he focuses on the interaction with them in his article. The point I make in my navigation design workshops, however, is that ribbon menus draw together navigation options from across a site’s hierarchy. They not only provide a nice, speedy interaction, they also change the function of the menu. Dynamic menus aren’t just for structural, local navigation any more: you can use them to draw together options and tasks that thematically belong together. So they become associative menus as well. I’ve even seen ads in ribbon menus.
I don’t like Nielsen’s terms for them: many people refer to regular ol’ HTML selection menus as “drop-down”. I’m not thrilled with calling them “ribbon navigation” either, so if you have a good suggestion let me know.