Our web site (Internet Tips and Secrets - http://www.internet- tips.net/ ) runs an awards program which gets as many as fifty submissions a week. That means we visit each of those fifty sites each and every week to determine if they measure up to criteria for awards. Do you know that at least half of those sites make our job as award masters very easy because their navigation is so poor we cannot easily determine how to get from page to page?
Nothing will chase away visitors as effectively as poor navigation. If you don't have a clear, easy-to-understand and easy-to-find navigation system, you practically guarantee that your visitors will never leave home page of your site.
What should a good navigation system address?
Navigation must be visible - Your visitors must be able to find your menu or other system immediately upon glancing at your site. This is one of most critical rules of all. Your visitors will not spend much time looking around to figure out how to get deeper into your site. The web is too big - they will simply surf elsewhere.
Your navigation must be consistent - You must present same exact navigation scheme on every single page of your web site. This will serve to pull your visitors in deeper and deeper ... once they get used to your scheme they will use it without thinking. If you keep changing it from page to page, you just give people one more reason to leave your site.
Navigation must work without graphics - Many people surf web without graphics enabled. Why? Because when you are on a dialup, it's faster by far. I used to do this before I had DSL - I turned off graphics until I found page I wanted, then I turned graphics on. This implies that if your navigation scheme is entirely graphics oriented, then you will lose a small percentage of your audience. Many people include a second navigation scheme at bottom of each page of their web site. This has become a de-facto standard, and just about anyone who surfs with graphics off knows to look down to last few lines of a page to find menus.
Don't use frames - I know it is tempting, since making a menu system seems to be perfect application for frames. I would advise avoiding this temptation. Frames are becoming more and more frowned upon by surfers and webmasters alike. Why? Search engines don't tend to like them very much and it confuses surfers since URL is URL of frame page and not page which they are looking at.