Plan site navigation (SharePoint Server 2010)


Applies to: SharePoint Server 2010, SharePoint Foundation 2010

Topic Last Modified: 2011-09-25

Site navigation provides the primary interface for site users to move around the sites and pages in your site. Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010 includes a set of navigation features that can be customized and extended to help orient the users of your site so they can move around its sites and pages. This article contains general guidance about how to plan site navigation for your SharePoint Server 2010 sites. This article does not describe the types of navigation controls that are available in SharePoint Server 2010, nor does it explain how to add navigation controls to Web pages, how to configure navigation controls, or how to create custom navigation controls. For information about site navigation controls, see Site navigation overview (SharePoint Server 2010) and Navigation Controls.

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Navigation planning includes planning the user experience that you want to create in your site and deciding whether authors will be able to insert navigation elements directly onto their pages.

Pages in sites that are based on SharePoint Server 2010 are composed of three elements: master pages, page layouts, and page content. When you plan your site's navigation, you can make decisions about all these elements:

  • You configure global (top link bar) navigation elements and site-level (Quick Launch) navigation elements on master pages.

  • You can add navigation elements that provide tables of contents, dynamic access to content based on a query, or authored links to page layouts.

  • You can allow page content to contain tables of contents, dynamic access to content based on a query, or authored links. Be aware that if you allow authors to add navigation elements to page content, site designers will have less control of a site's navigation experience.

  • You can use breadcrumbs to display a set of links that show the site hierarchy, starting from the current page up to the top-level site.

Your navigation decisions are closely related to your decisions about the structure of sites in your site hierarchy. For each site in your site hierarchy, you can choose to have it inherit the top link bar or the Quick Launch navigation from its parent site, or you can plan unique settings.

The decisions that you make about your site's navigation reflect its unique purpose and structure. When you plan navigation, consider the tradeoff between having too many navigation links, which could make your site confusing, and having too few, which could make it difficult for site users to locate important information. Also remember the following:

  • Inheriting the parent site's navigation can place the current site in a larger context. In an intranet site, this inheritance can help information workers use the other sites in the site collection to complete their tasks. If site users do not have to use other sites to complete their tasks, consider defining a unique top link bar at the site so that site users are not distracted by irrelevant navigation links. For example, records managers who are using a Records Center site might not have to go outside the Records Center to accomplish their tasks and so would not benefit from a set of inherited top link bar navigation links.

  • Displaying peer sites on the Quick Launch navigation can imply that the peer sites have a purpose that is similar to that of the current site. For example, in an Internet site that markets a set of products, peer sites on the Quick Launch navigation can help site users find descriptions of related products and services. However, if site users are unlikely to want to visit peer sites, consider not displaying them in the current navigation. For example, a university's Internet site that has sites for each graduate school could omit peer links from the current navigation of each parent site because students who are interested in a particular graduate school, such as Business Administration, are unlikely to want to visit sites related to other graduate schools, such as Nursing.

If you are using the publishing feature, you can add navigation controls to page layouts. You can also add Web Part zones to page layouts and give authors the ability to add navigation Web Parts to these zones. As with other page element planning decisions, you should plan navigation on pages based on how much control you want to have over the page-viewing experience:

  • To tightly control site navigation, you can put navigation controls directly on page layouts and eliminate Web Part zones from page layouts, or restrict the use of navigation Web Parts in those zones. For example, in a corporate Internet presence site that has millions of site users, you might decide to restrict authors from inserting navigation controls.

  • You can provide a more varied site navigation by putting Web Part zones on page layouts, and by giving authors the ability to insert navigation Web Parts onto their pages. For example, in an intranet site in which authors and site users are part of the same workgroup, you might decide to give authors the ability to control the navigation experience of their content by adding navigation Web Parts to their pages. For more information, see Plan Web pages (SharePoint Server 2010).

Download an Excel version of the Site planning data worksheet ( Use this worksheet to help record your decisions about site navigation.