A design paradigm that has been increasingly popular of late, the so called “mega menus,” is a convenient way to corral large quantities of navigational links into a sensible hierarchy. It sounds good on the surface, and often does work well, but it’s not always the best solution.
UIE.com has a very interesting article, 6 Epic Forces Battling Your Mega Menus, that explains some of the primary usability issues with mega menus. A few of them could be designed around fairly easy, such as the common lack of indication that a menu trigger will open a menu. It’s a good read.
The Amazon mega menu seemed like an ideal solution to the growing tab problem. Finally, their design team had a way to show everything you could do on the site without eating up rows of tabs in the header.
Yet, just as suddenly as it had appeared, the mega menu suddenly disappeared. Replaced by a more sophisticated navigation scheme (that’s still on the site today), the mega menu’s lifespan was less than a year.
On the other hand, Jakob Nielsen has some good things to say about mega menus as well as plenty of usability tips for their implementation.