“Make sure every click makes the user more confident”

Jared M Spool in Disambiguity conference


Search as navigation

With the trend of minimalist and clutter-free design, sometimes it is assumed that users prefer to search above all else. But often that’s not the case. Typically, people use search if they know exactly what they’re looking for, or if they cannot find something through browsing.

Search should only be the primary navigation for a website if the site’s main function is to be a search engine. For example, Google, Bing, and job search boards can all use this approach. But in the context of an information-heavy site like a university, browsing is essential for increasing discoverability of content.

KATIE SHERWIN: http://www.nngroup.com/articles/breaking-web-conventions/

Role-based navigation

But role-based navigation like this poses the same problems it does on other university sites. Users don’t necessarily self-identify, and they often don’t understand which audience category contains the content that they want. For example, many parents view the page for prospective students well before they view the page for parents. Evaluate whether topic-based organization might be more efficient for your users. And if you are using audience-based organization, be sure that each audience is specific and distinct, and include the information that is most relevant to that audience.

Katie Sherwin in: http://www.nngroup.com/articles/breaking-web-conventions/

Navigation is meaningful

Kalbach presents one of the most convincing arguments in favor of web navigation. The problem with removing navigation is that “people wouldn’t have a sense of beginning or end in their search for information, and orientation would be difficult” (p.6). Without the hierarchy of a table of contents, users would lack a sense of the whole, the beginning to end structure of the content. Kalbach then says, “Navigation provides a narrative for people to follow on the Web. It tells a story–the story of your site. In this respect, there is something both familiar and comforting about web navigation. The widespread, seemingly natural use of navigation to access content on the Web reflects its strength as a narrative device” (p.10). In other words, your navigation, which presents a hierarchy of information to the reader, gives users clues about the meaning of the content by mere fact of its organization.

Tom Johnson quoting from James Kalbach’s book ‘Designing Web Navigation’

Building blocks of navigation

Navigation system components:

  • Global
  • Local
  • Understanding the difference between children and siblings
  • Avoiding purpose-less pages
  • Prioritized local navigation
  • Faceted search
  • Breadcrumbs
  • Utility
  • Related links
  • Social filters
  • Quick links
  • Site map
  • Process/navigation
  • Pagination
  • Tag clouds
  • Spatial navigation

Navigation patterns and behavior

  • Tabs
  • Vertical links
  • Filmstrip
  • Accordion
  • Standard hyperlinking
  • Landing pages
  • Sub-navigation bars
  • Drop-down menus
  • Fly-out menus
  • Cascading menus
  • Mega menus

From NN Group training syllabus


Use links meaningfully:

  • Deliver users to their desired objective.
  • Give them links that communicate scent in a meaningful way (e.g. with meaningful trigger words)
  • Make the real estate reflect the user’s desires.

‘A more accurate name for the search box would be B.Y.O.L.: Bring Your Own Link. What do people type into this box: trigger words! … The key thing to understand is that people don’t want to search. There’s a myth that some people prefer to search. It’s the design of the site that forces them to search. The failure rate for search is 70%.’

Essence of a talk given by Jared Spool on ‘An event apart’, Boston MA, 2011
From Jeremy Keith’s notes