2.15 Use navigation mechanisms consistently
WAI checkpoint 13.4
Full WAI text: "Use navigation mechanisms in a consistent manner." Navigation mechanisms show the user where they can go in a site and their current position within the site structure. Examples include links, navigation bars, page or list numbers, site searching tools, advertising, headers and page titles. Navigation mechanisms should be presented in an orderly, uniform fashion, throughout a site.
Providing consistent navigation devices and structures is important for all users. Inconsistently presented navigation mechanisms quickly disorient users and lead to mistakes, confusion and frustration.
Consistency makes your site more predictable, making it easier for users to navigate quickly to the information they want. It also helps users to skip unwanted chunks of navigation or content, which makes task completion or information retrieval more efficient.
Ensuring that the following characteristics of navigation mechanisms are more or less uniform throughout a site, or a series of related sites creates consistency:
- Visual presentation - navigation elements look similar from page to page
- Order - navigation elements are presented in a consistent sequence
- Language - terminology is consistent
- Behaviour - links and navigation controls always do the same thing when activated
Users who are not familiar with using computers or the web, users with learning difficulties or those in a hurry all benefit from consistent navigation mechanisms.
Directions and Techniques
There are no specific techniques recommended for this guideline.
How you could check for this:
Compare different pages in the site
When you open each page, compare the positioning and presentation of the navigation elements. Compare the language and naming system for links and sections. Compare the behaviour of the navigation mechanisms.
If the site is part of a suite of sites, compare the entire suite
If users are likely to use more than one site in the suite, which could be several related sites from an organisation or a thematic collection of sites, then you should check for consistency across the suite.