What is Utility Navigation?

Table of Contents

Utility Navigation comprises secondary tools and actions, such as sign-in, contact, save, subscribe, share, print, and change view. 

These activities significantly affect website visitor satisfaction, UX, and engagement. Therefore, utility Navigation placement should be where people expect and need them to b

Utility navigational tools shape how visitors interact with your website, content, and organization as a whole. While these tools differ in size and purpose, most included:

  • Log in/Sign up
  • Contact us
  • Print
  • Save
  • Share
  • Subscribe
  • Follow us
  • View single page
  • Tools for changing font size
  • Locale switcher/language tools

Where to Place Utility Navigation 

Search and shopping cart icons are core features, especially for ecommerce sites. Nevertheless, design conventions call for them to be in the utility navigation – i.e., in the secondary, less prominent utility area. 

However, today especially, they should still be visible so that users can quickly find the utility they need, when they need it – such as in the top-right corner of the page and not stuck in a navigation bar.

8 Tips to guide placement

  1. Provide icons with text labels. Don’t rely on hover-text explanations that won’t display on touch screens.
  2. Test for comprehension and interaction if you hide mission-critical tools under navigation icons – people don’t click on what they don’t understand, especially on mobile platforms. 
  3. Group utilities where people expect them – top-right corner or next to content they affect. 
  4. Make controls look like controls and use common names for them.
  5. Separate the two types of social media icons. E.g., separate “Share this” from “Follow us” as they look similar yet do very different things.
  6. Include subscription tools: Make it easy for readers to follow authors, feeds, and features.
  7. Position “Sign Up” and “Log In” adjacently.
  8. Use colors and buttons to emphasize the most critical actions and draw the eye to the utility area.

Test With Your Visitors

Utility Navigation is maturing in its placement and rules. The easy way to adapt is to copy what popular websites are doing. However, ultimately, test that your navigation is working for your site visitors by testing the best placement options. The most functional navigation where you’re not hiding essential tools will prevail.


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