Friday, July 23, 2010

Designing Navigation

This month we have been immersed in our latest challenge .... how to structure the navigation for a content rich site that uses big words and long phrases for its articles and consequently the planned navigation.
I like things simple, although comprehensible may be a better word, and when we are dealing with complex issues we sometimes need to go beyond simplicity to make things comprehensible. This is the issue with the navigation in question. Heres what we did to resolve this issue.

As always with our design we focus on how people will use a website or piece of software. Any navigation needs to help visitors answer 3 questions:
  1. Where am I?
  2. Where have I been?
  3. Where can I go?
Along with answering these 3 questions, I have the results of numerous studies and the practical experience of observing people while they interact with user interfaces to help us reach a solution.

The more sections and pages planned for a website the more complex the navigation problem is. We cannot represent  every single piece of information in the navigation so we strive to provide the visitor to a website with enough information to quickly and intuitively work out where to go.

If an article buried at the lowest level of the navigation is the hardest to find then this would be our "findability" benchmark. While the designer was doing the visuals we built a wireframe and created a page for all the sections we knew about, along with pages deep in the site, that we could use to test out theories. Our programmer applied interactive code to the navigation and we are now testing the behavior of people on the site to determine if we have it right.

I am always searching for a solution that will make it easier for people to find the information they want on your website. If you want help on designing or redesigning the navigation structure on your website give me a call.