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Why do the majority of websites use menus that disappear when you scroll down? Is it a good idea to "dock" the menu to the top of the screen (like this), so visitors can easily navigate no matter where on the page they have scrolled to? What are the pros and cons of both?

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Shouldn't be this on Stack Overflow? –  KovBal Jul 23 '09 at 8:35
    
I didn't think it was programming related. More of a general/poweruser question. –  Jarvis Jul 23 '09 at 8:52
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closed as off topic by random Dec 30 '12 at 19:48

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5 Answers

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Done well, there is no problem to docking a menu like that, however like many things in web design, they are very difficult to do "well".

The look and feel needs to be addressed, or else you'll wind up with a page that looks like it was designed circa 1990, such as the posted example. By constantly having the navigation follow you, the page tends to look busy and cluttered.

Many websites tend to design more fully than just a simple navigation bar, and having the bar statically embedded into the page allows them to style it fully.

Other sites, such as Super User need to additional vertical space, and would not be able to fit all of the sidebar content on a single view.

Another issue with "docked" sidebars is resolution. As a designer, dealing with widely varied resolutions can make a site like that look great at 1024x768, look poor but usable at 1920x1080, and be utterly unusable at 800x600, or even (in the not too distant past for some users) 640x480. The rule of thumb in web design is to style for the lowest common denominator.

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I don't like the example provided, and it suggests the downside of using docked menus; design.

Personally, I think it's a good idea for usability. The problem is that it's not common and few designers have a reference from which to implement it successfully where as traditional navigation (horizontal menu bar at the top and/or vertical one on the sides) are a standard across the web.

Most sites follow a standard structure when you think about it. Truly innovative designs for sites are few and far between. Partly because of user exceptions, and partly because it's difficult to think of such a design.

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Also, most users aren't used to such interfaces on the web. They expect very simple, static designs most of the time. –  Sasha Chedygov Sep 16 '09 at 20:59
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The advantage of a docked menu would be that users don't have to scroll upwards when they are done reading. This off course is only required on very long pages.

You could always consider this 'usable', since you make navigation easier. However you have leave less room for anything else on the sides, because the entire side of the page is used for the menu.

Therefore a docked menu is very useful for a webpage that doesn't need any width and mostly consists of long pages with text or pictures.

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One disadvantage would be backwards compatibility. Most browsers these days can handle it, but there are a few people who, for various reasons, do not want to upgrade. If your design gracefully fails(acts like a normal, non-docked version), then go for it.

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While I think docked menus can be done well, the corollary is that effectively you're acknowledging that your pages are too long. I know it's not always possible to keep to a certain page size and you have to cater for different screen resolutions, but it is a consideration.

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