The Navigation Bar

Although not yet supported by either Internet Explorer or Netscape, the Browser Navigation Bar has been introduced into a number of other browsers to assist visitors to navigate individual sites. The Navigation Bar has been supported for quite some time by the iCab browser that runs on the Mac and Opera have also introduced support for it in the latest version of their browser. There may also be other browsers that either currently support the navigation bar or are intending to introduce such support in the future.

The navigation bar is an extra toolbar that appears in your browser but instead of the entries in the toolbar performing set functions or linking to fixed web pages, the entries instead link to pages that have a specified relationship to the current web page as defined in the web page itself. This therefore provides an alternate means of navigating a web site that can be used by those visitors who are using a browser that has a navigation bar.

Although most of your visitors will not see the navigation bar, it may still be worthwhile providing one for those few of your visitors who are using browsers that do support it. The code required to make use of the navigation bar is not very complicated and can easily be added to any or all of your web pages. This web page (as an example) contains the following code in the <head> section of the page source to define some links that will appear on the navigation bar in those browsers that support it.

<link rel="home" href="index.html" />
<link rel="index" href="site.htm" />
<link rel="glossary" href="gloss.htm" />
<link rel="copyright" href="disc.htm" />
<link rel="author" href="about.htm" />
<link rel="made" href="about.htm" />
<link rel="help" href="ask.htm" />
<link rel="contents" href="index.html" />
<link rel="first" href="whatsnew.htm" />
<link rel="up" href="net2.htm" />
<link rel="prev" href="htmlt44.htm" />
<link rel="section" href="net2.htm" />

As you can see, the code required is extremely simple and consists of just two values for each link. The rel value identifies the link in the navigation bar that you are assigning a value to and the href specifies which page that you want that entry on the navigation bar to link to when it is selected from the current page.

Unfortunately, the links on the Opera and iCab navigation bars are not entirely the same but many of them are. On both browsers you can assign links to home, index, contents, glossary, help, first, prev, next, last, and copyright. For visitors using Opera you can also supply links for search, up, and author. For visitors using iCab you can also supply links for chapter, section, subsection, appendix, and made. By supplying equivalent Opera and iCab relationship entries you can build almost identical navigation bars for both browsers and still not require a massive amount of code. Any relationships not recognised by a given browser will be ignored by that browser and all of the relationships will be ignored by those browsers that don't have a navigation bar so adding the code to your pages will not hurt anything.

You can link the entries in the navigation bar to wherever you want to but it will probably be most useful to your visitors if you link to the page on your site that most closely matches the description of the link. Providing these link references in each of your pages will also help you to keep straight where each individual page fits into your site.

Although only a few of your visitors will ever know that they are there, providing definitions for links in the navigation bar will provide another easy means of navigating your site for those who do see the navigation bar.


This article written by Stephen Chapman, Felgall Pty Ltd.

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