Remember how when the web was young, web designers often wanted to use microscopic navigation buttons…it looked elegant and cool to them.
No one uses tinsy tiny navigation any more. Designers universally have since found lots of ways to make web site navigation buttons that are functional and elegant or at least attractive.
Perhaps you could say the importance of elegant and cool navigation button has been trounced by basic functionality. We want longer site visits, page time and sales, not to merely look good.
May drop down menus go the same way as tinsy tiny navigation. Drop downs, in my mild opinion, are not friendly to the web site visitor for several reasons:
1) Visitors need to pull down to see the navigation. How do they know to mouse over the buttons for pull downs? Some of us do this intuitively, many do not know to look for them.
2) It’s difficult for many people to navigate or pull down on drop down menus. People with tight hands or arthritis have a particularly hard time. The navigation is the backbone of your site and you don’t want to make it difficult for visitors to travel from page to page on your site.
3) Drop downs are prone to breaking.
What I prefer is side bar navigation.
For side bars, you click on the section of the site that interests you. An introduction or overview comes up in the central page and on the side column are the other pages in the section. I like that you can see all the choices at once and as you move between them you can continue to see the choices. Just see the example from the Red Cross and I’ll believe you’ll understand me perfectly.
So for friendlier usability and functionality, choose side bar navigation over drop downs.