A couple months back I heard a good talk by Steven Krug. The talk was entertaining and had a simple core point.
- Let people know where they are on your site so they don't get lost.
Lately I've noticed a bad trend in web-design that sites make it very difficult to tell where you are:
Instead of using some visual indication to tell you what section of the site you're on these sites choose to do nothing. This makes it difficult to tell where you are on the site.
It's super easy to bold or highlight the section you're on. Why aren't these sites doing this? Perhaps in a 'page view' culture they want to confuse you and get you to click all around the site looking for the page you need. Twitter in particular highlights a tab that has nothing to do with the page that you're on.
Well designed sites tend to have primary and secondary navigation elements and it should always be obvious where on the site you are simply by looking at the navigation area. You can bold the text, use a tab graphic, highlight the text, etc, etc. Make it obvious when you're on a particular section of the site.
LinkedIn, Facebook and Flickr also use hover menus. In general hover menus can cause all sorts of accessibility problems. They also cause obstruction problems as you move your mouse through the screen you pass through the menu and obscure the area you're trying to click. Lastly since these hover menus contain secondary navigation elements you can't tell where you are on the site because typically the hover menu is closed.
There are ways to use hover menus and make your navigation clear. Staples is an example of this. The primary navigation is always obvious and althouh the secondary navigation is a hover menu the currently selected page is expanded and shown within the header area making it easy to move around the site.