Large sidebar menus can frustrate even the most advanced user. The reason for this is the way designers display the menu items. When they all have the same visual treatment, menu items are hard to scan. If you don’t fix this, you can slow users down when they navigate.
The issue arises when you give your menu items an all-text or all-icons treatment. When users scan for the item they want, their attention scatters around the menu. This occurs because there’s no hierarchy to direct their attention.
Make your menu scannable by directing the user’s attention toward your primary items. To achieve this, emphasize them with the following design techniques.
Primary Item Icons
Instead of placing an icon on every menu item, place them on primary ones only. The visual emphasis directs the user’s attention toward those items first. The lack of icons on secondary items allows them to get the remaining attention.
Slightly Larger Icons
If you want to make an all-icons treatment work, slightly enlarge the icons on primary items. A slight increase can make a big difference in scanning. The glyph will be easier to distinguish, and the line-height of each row will increase as well.
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