E-commerce Link: Go Big or Go Home
3. Icons and Illustrations: Definitely use icons or illustrations in your mega menus if it will help users make navigation decisions. Avoid the imagery completely if it's little more than decoration or fluff. The European Ripcurl retail site relies heavily on imagery to navigate its products. Because Ripcurl has a good bit of French in addition to English on its site, using visual navigation helps the surfwear retailer bridge the language divide.
4. Say "NO" to Search: Avoid advanced interactions within your mega menus—such as searching or logging in. First of all, you don't want to hide these important functions from your users; keep them readily available in the masthead of your page where they are expected. Secondly, these types of complex interactions shouldn't happen within a panel that appears on hover and feels more temporary. Mega menus should be used to get the user in, making a click and out again. Heftier interactions need a more permanent space.
5. Strong Visual Borders: Lastly, make sure your mega menu has strong borders and feels visually distinct from the main portion of your page. The one drawback with a mega menu is that when it opens, it expands down on top of main page content. Therefore, you need to make sure your mega menu doesn't blend in with, or look too similar to, the page beneath. This will be a visual cue to users that they need to leave the menu in order to browse main page content.
Please send me screenshots if you end up using these mega menu techniques. I'd love to see your examples! Best of luck.
Cristin Siegel is the director of user experience and research at Chicago-based interactive agency Designkitchen. Reach her at email@example.com.