The Unnamed Navigation Menu

By Deane Barker on December 1, 2009

I’m curious if anyone can articulate a standard name for the very top navigation on a Web site.  Not the main, content-based navigation, but the stuff at the tippy-top of the page, usually on the right.

The most common things you see here are:

  • “Contact Us”
  • “Log In”
  • A search box
  • A language selector

Over the years, I’ve seen a bunch of different names for this:

  • “Utilities” or “Utility Menu” (Adaptive Path calls it this)
  • “Static Nav”
  • “Tools”
  • “Eyebrow Nav” (just heard this one today, which is got me thinking about it)
  • “Global Nav” (I maintain this should refer to the main, content-based nav)
  • “Overhead Nav”
  • “Top Nav”

Anyone want to toss another name out, or make some impassionate defense/condemnation of something listed here?

Update: Other possible names from the comments on this post and responses to a tweet (some seven years later).

  • “Corner Nav” (someone uses this in CSS, so perhaps it’s not a name so much)
  • “Constant Nav”
  • “Tertiary Nav” (I have specific issue with this, since the content-based nav will likely have a tertiary level)
  • “Meta Navigation”
  • “Service Menu”
  • “App Bar”

Another update:  I put a question out on the IAI group in LinkedIn. Some responses:

  • “Utility Nav”
  • “Settings Bar”
  • “Admin Bar”
Gadgetopia

Comments

  1. I always call it “cornernav” or “cornerbox” in my HTML/CSS. It’s not always in the corner, but I just got in the (bad) habit of using that id name and I can’t shake it.

  2. Just to add a few more possible names: NavStrip or NavigationStrip NavRibbon Microsoft uses tabstrip

  3. I call it utility bar, or utility menu; I tend not to call it navigation because not all items there are for navigation; there are some functional operations, such as sign in, sign out, search, email, etc.

  4. I was absolutely behind “Admin Bar,” except that the search box has as much to do with the user as it does with the administrator.

    Why wouldn’t someone call it a “Toolbox?” Or is that too back-end?

  5. I usually call it the “Top Navigation” but I like now that I’ve hear of “Utility Nav” I’ll probably start using that.

    Also, that’s the first time I’ve heard Deane use the term “tippy-top” – well played Deane!

  6. I call it the Utility Nav because it’s organized by function, not location. Tertiary navigation, to me, is located three levels in as you drill down in content. But none of the answers are wrong.

    I think what matters most is that terms are defined and everyone on the team uses them consistently. When working with your client, give them an overview of your terminology before you start talking about the project. A wire frame with terms called out is a great tool for your them (and maybe the whole team). This way no one feels stupid.

    Sorry to be so wordy.

  7. I usually call it the “corporate” nav, as it’s usually everywhere on a given organisation’s web properties. I also say “top nav” quite a lot, but it depends on the site in question.

    An Eyebrow is something else. It’s what less pedantic people call the breadcrumbs. (And most of us have seen the fall-out from an over-literal reading of the term “breadcrumbs” at one time or another, so perhaps the pedantry is forgivable.) Isn’t Eyebrow microsoft-eze?

  8. Depending on what’s there I either call it the Call-to-Action menu or the User Menu. And the main menu then get’s called the Content Menu or Main Menu.

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