Understanding web navigation

February 4th, 2005

Whew! Hectic few days. Turning around projects like nobody’s business. My favourite article of the moment is Henrik Olsen’s Navigation Blindness. I’ve read and re-read it and all the related articles so many times over the last month or so that it’s almost become a mantra to me. A few simple yet elegant nuggets I take away each: Only link to related pages, don’t present all your navigation to all sections and pages on every page. Don’t separate content and navigation. Keep the user focussed on the natural flow of the page. Much like Flickr do by putting their navigation at the bottom of the page.

I’ve been so impressed by this ethos that I’ve been building the new Open University Careers Advisory Service website with it in mind. But it’s been a struggle selling the idea to people who are not used to navigation being presented in this way. These people are content authors, not typical users of the site. These people tend to write complete sites in one go – much you’d traditionally write a book. Of course, the web is not a linear experience. People are goal driven. Maybe in the coming year our sites will be written in a completely different, and more webby fashion rather than like a book.