What is a Menu?
Menus contain a list of options that can be seen on the screen and allow users or learners to move from one place to another. Menus can be on the screen the entire time, i.e. the World Wide Web, or they can be hidden or partially hidden. They can also be found in a variety of form including horizontal and vertical. There are a variety of menus available in softwares, with the 3 most general menus being full-screen menu, hidden menu, and frame menu. Each different type of menu has its own advantages and disadvantages. (Alessi & Trollip, 2001). In regards to software application and internet use, menus are better known as Navigation Menu's. Navigation menus are not just limited to computer software and internet use, but can also be found on video games, DVD's and cell phones.

"Essential on a site home page, it can have different appearances. It contains the table of contents and the links to the other pages of the site." (Multimania, 2009)

Literature Reviews:
Bargas-Avila (2011) conducted a study to determine which type of menu, vertical versus dynamic menus on the World Wide Web, measured the influence of menu design and task complexity on user performance. Results from this study suggests that vertical menus allowed users to need less eye fixations and were faster and more successful. This suggests that vertical menus are a better fit to perception and cognition than dynamic menus (dynamic menus are menus in which navigation items are hidden and must be accessed through additional mouse clicking, a good example would be the hidden or drop-down menu).

Pearson and van Schaik (2003) conducted a study to determine the effect of color and the positioning of the menu frames as part of the web documents on human-computer interaction. Results suggests that links found in blue font versus red font were more readily used. In regards to menu presentation, results suggests that there was more use of menus when they were found to the left or right of the page.

Types of Menus:
  • Frame
  • Full-Screen
    • Progressive Menu
  • Hidden
    • Drop-down Menus
    • Pull-Down Menus
    • Pop-Up Menus
    • Tear-Off Menus

3 Most Common Menus: Frame Menu, Full-Screen Menu, and Hidden Menu

Image of Frame Menu:
This menu is located on the left and is accesible and present on any page listed in the menu. However the menu may also be located on the right of the page as well.

  • Easy to use
  • Learners always have a visual reminder of menu availability

  • Reduce the amount of screen space
  • Can create a cluttered appearance
  • Support for frame menus are not built into the operating system
  • When used on the web, they are prone to bugs
Screen_shot_2011-02-26_at_2.57.38_PM.pngImage of Full-Screen Menu: The menu takes up the entire screen and can be commonly be seen in software programs.Advantages:
  • Explain each choice with details
  • Provides a good place to begin a section of a program
  • Serves as an "anchor" point giving learners a sense of orientation
  • Provide progress information
  • Provide achievement information

  • Taking up display space
  • Requires users to leave original page to view menu
  • Not always readily available
  • Multiple full-screen menus become disorienting

MediaMenu screenshot
MediaMenu screenshot

Image of Hidden (drop-down or pull-down) Menu:
The menu shows more options when scrolled across or clicked.

  • Built into most modern operating systems
  • Easy to implement
  • Many user choices available using limited space
  • Can be hierarchical with categories expanding
  • Do not require leaving the original page (unlike Full-Screen Menus)

  • Slightly more difficult to operate than other methods
  • Requires users drag or click the mouse multiple times
  • Not good for frequent or multiple clicks
  • Typically non-asesthically pleasing and allow for only black and white text
  • Limited to a single text font
  • Often found at the top of the screen
  • Users sometimes ignore or forget to use them

Menus Commonly Seen:Image of Iphone: The icons (pictures) on the screen of the phone is part of the Menu. Users can navigate between different "apps."Screen_shot_2011-03-21_at_11.45.55_AM.png
Image of Navigation Systems:
Many drivers use navigation systems to help navigate the roads



Alessi, S., & Trollip, S. (2001). Multimedia for Learning: Methods and Development. Needham Heights, MA: Allyn & Bacon.
Full Screen Menu Image taken from:

Bargas-Avila, J., Leuthold, S., Opwis, K., Schmutz, P., & Tuch, A. (2011). Vertical versus dynamic menus on the world wide web: Eye tracking study measuring the influence of menu design and task complexity on user performance and subjective preference. Computers in Human Behavior, 27, 459-472

Pearson, R., & van Scaik, P. (2003). The effect of spatial layout of and link colour in web pages on performance in a visual search task and an interactive search task. International Journal of Human-Computer Studies, 59, 327-353

Last updated on April 18, 2011
Mina Richardson