A responsive site’s expandable left menu does not resolve ‘the navigation challenge’.
UniCredit, the Italian banking giant, has introduced a modified version of left menu navigation on its responsive corporate website.
Unusually, the menu is introduced on the home page, with primary icons and links listed in a narrow strip – About us, Governance, Investors, Press & Media, etc. On click, the menu expands to the right and secondary options appear. The menu automatically collapses again when landing on any of the primary or secondary pages. Tertiary and deeper links do not appear in the menu, but are handled via in-page links and the breadcrumb trail.
On a mobile screen, the menu is collapses behind a clickable hamburger icon, but the functionality is the same.
The expandable left menu is UniCredit’s answer to what we call the ‘navigation challenge’ – creating a responsive, modern-looking site that is also usable on a desktop screen. It is a less innovative solution than it first appears, performing essentially the same functions as a mega dropdown panel.
The panel itself is tidy, but there is no option of keeping it open, which would function more like a real left menu. Instead, to move from one page to another, even within the same section, users must make another click – to expand the left menu to see the options again or by using the breadcrumb trail to get to the previous level. The menu might be more useful if tertiary links were included, but it is probably impractical without changing the design.
A wider point is the constant experimentation with navigation on corporate websites shows that digital teams know they’ve created a problem by getting rid of left menus, and have not found an consistent and effective replacement.