By Anthony Baratta
If you've put in the work to use the term store and configured the managed metadata system on your SharePoint site, then your next step might be to configure managed navigation. Available since SharePoint 2013, managed navigation is a feature that allows you to choose between SharePoint's two possible navigation setups. The first uses the standard structure of the site. Structural navigation is the default option, allowing you to navigate your SharePoint site while playing by SharePoint's rules. In essence, then, managed navigation is where you create your own rules for SharePoint navigation.
An Overview of SharePoint’s Managed Navigation
Managed navigation isn't even a relevant or usable feature until after you’ve configured a managed metadata taxonomy for your SharePoint site. Read our guide on how to use the term store to configure managed metadata on your site.This tutorial will teach you the basics of using terms and term sets for your SharePoint site.
Those basics will be essential if you wish to set up a managed navigation interface for your website. Managed navigation is reliant on term sets—specifically navigation term sets. A navigation term set is precisely what it sounds like: a term set whose terms are based on the structure of the website. In most cases, there will be a term in this term set for each different page on your site. You can then use this term set as a main menu navigation system for your SharePoint site, with easy access to sites and pages that might have previously been harder to find. Each term leads to a specific URL.
By default, a feature called "automatic term creation" will be enabled for your navigation term set. This function will create a new term (and add it to your navigation term set) each time you create a new page on your SharePoint site. It is possible to disable this feature, but most SharePoint users find it helpful in keeping their managed navigation systems up-to-date.
About Friendly URLs
Another key feature of SharePoint's managed navigation option is the friendly URL. When you enable managed navigation and build a navigation term set, you also create friendly URLs for each page featured in the navigation interface. By "friendly," SharePoint mostly means "meaningful." These URLs are easy to read and derive meaning from because they correspond to the terms in the navigation term set. They are also shorter than the URLs you would find in a SharePoint site operating on a structural navigation basis.
Friendly URLs are useful for both your team members and outside users who might be visiting your SharePoint pages. By shortening URL lengths and deriving them from relevant keywords, SharePoint makes it easier to find the page(s) you want from your Internet history. Friendly URLS are also useful for search engine optimization and make it easier for visitors to find your page through Google.
One of the most common scenarios for using managed navigation is cross-site publishing. If you are managing multiple sites and site catalogs within a single SharePoint setup, navigation of all those pages and information can become confusing—especially in a strict structural navigation setup. With managed navigation, it's easier to manage these different pages and catalog items and organize them into an intuitive and convenient navigation system. Managed navigation makes it so easy to create simple site hierarchies (or to move around pages to change the navigation hierarchies) that it is easily the best option for cross-site publishing.
For these reasons and more, SharePoint will enable managed navigation by default if you decide to use cross-site publishing. Microsoft especially recommends cross-site publishing (and, by extension, managed navigation) for e-commerce sites and intranets, though you might consider both for other types of pages as well. On e-commerce sites, managed navigation is great because it allows you to set up a hierarchy of different product categories, sub-categories, and actual products.
Enabling Managed Metadata on Your SharePoint Site
Of course, managed navigation can also be used to create and manage site hierarchies for SharePoint environments that don't use cross-site publishing as well. By allowing you to customize the hierarchy of your own site, you can create a navigation system that is more logical and usable for you and your team.
If you are interested in enabling managed navigation on your SharePoint site—and if you've laid the necessary groundwork by creating a managed metadata taxonomy—all you have to do is go to the "Settings" menu. From "Settings," click on "Site Settings" and then scroll down to "Navigation," under the "Look and Feel" section.
You will find the managed navigation settings under the "Global Navigation" segment of the "Navigation" page. You will be able to choose the term set that you want to use as your navigation term set and then click "OK" to enable the function. Just like that, your SharePoint site will be using managed navigation rather than structural navigation (though you might have to do some extra tweaking and customization to get the navigation setup you want).
As SharePoint experts it is our pleasure to share advice or help you to learn more about SharePoint Managed Navigation. Therefore, please do not hesitate to connect with us for a complimentary consultation. Or, if you have a few questions you need answered first, please contact us at (510) 652 7700.