The smell of spring break is still in the air and I just discovered I did wrong week’s blog posts- oops! Guess everyone will have to wait in anticipation until I repost them next week.
I wouldn’t personally say that menus are the most important factor in web design, but rather hierarchy is an important element to all design. No matter the situation, I think the goal is to have the eye drawn to most important element and then follow along from there. Ideally, I think a designer should be able dictate what is seen first, second, third etc with or without a menu. In web design, it just so happens that a lot of time that most important element is the navigation. A lot of sites, especially for larger companies, have so much information that they need to direct people in a clearly identified way. There are sites that exists without menus at all though. Consider for example something like this. This site chooses more to tell a story than use traditional navigation. It proves a site can exist with a hierarchy but without a menu. Okay, okay it may not be the perfect solution for all websites, but it can be done.
When navigation is used, I tend to prefer the less in-your-face option. I think a subtle color change or underline when hovered on can go a long way. We’re still a little ways off from vertical navigation becoming more of the norm. I think it can be really effective for something like a portfolio site, where the focus is on one thing. Not sure that the masses are quite ready for it though!