Some IBM products have begun providing mega menus for global navigation, quick access to secondary views, and even direct access to individual artifacts. Feedback has been positive and we have recently drafted design guidance, as part of our IBM One UI initiative, for standardizing mega menu interactions.
The IBM One UI mega menu guidance is based on a combination of our experiences from multiple IBM products, UX-articles outlining best practices, our internal UXR data, and a review of industry practices.
The following is a sample mega menu design. There are no current plans for this design to appear in any IBM product.
Industry practices and user research data
During the course of defining the IBM One UI guidance for mega menus, we reviewed a number of UX articles documenting proposed best design practices for mega menus (along with the rationale behind those practices). As an example, see that Jakob Nielsen gave mega menus a big thumbs up after observing them to be a very usable & useful form of navigation.
Within IBM, we have also tested our own mega menu prototypes, with our UXR Team reporting that usability test participants like mega menus and make solid use of the shortcuts that the menus provide.
Our mega menu practices are also partially guided by an industry review of 35 web apps and sites that provide mega menu navigation. This review has helped us understand the dominant behaviors in the industry as we recognize that user expectations are shaped largely by their everyday software experiences.
A sample of a product experience
IBM Lotus Connections 3.0 began implementing mega menus in part to fix a design problem such that the top-level navigation, when exposed as a series of individual navigation links, didn't fit properly at 1024 px. The mega menus allowed us to provide navigation to all the primary views by collapsing some of them into an Apps menu. This also allowed us to save users clicks (and page refreshes) by providing direct access to secondary views, and in some cases direct access to specific artifacts (e.g., recent communities). By all accounts, this has been a very positive change.
Ethan Perry, our Connections Design Lead reports that he has received positive feedback from several customers, during design discussions, on both the mega menus implemented in v3.0 and on prototypes of more advanced mega menus (which include additional controls such as search mechanisms with autocomplete as well as primary actions that would otherwise only be available by first navigating to another view).
We like mega menus. We especially like our mega menus. We hope you do, too.