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A Study of Website Navigation Methods

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#1 cre8pc


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Posted 08 August 2005 - 12:56 PM

Here is a valuable resource, for free. I'll link to the HTML version here:

A Study of Website Navigation Methods

Click here for slides, PDF, and vido demos.

Source: Usability Professionals Association (UPA) 2005 Conference in Montreal.

This is a case study of an effective approach to finding an optimal design solution. We used an online study to evaluate six different navigation methods for the same website and chose one based on the results.

Our client favored a style that we predicted would create usability issues; we favored a style that the client wasn't overly fond of. Therefore, we decided to conduct a usability study and let users choose for us!

#2 AbleReach


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Posted 08 August 2005 - 01:53 PM


Thanks for yet another resource.


#3 Ruud


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Posted 08 August 2005 - 10:29 PM

That's very interesting.

Given the nature of the site displayed, security, and its potential customer (older person), I would go for the Yahoo style menu. Less chance of click-frustration, less chance of the visitor not even knowing what to do.

I don't remember having seen a site that empoys the depicted Yahoo-style menu.

#4 BillSlawski


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Posted 08 August 2005 - 11:50 PM

I like the yahoo style menus, too.

I don't think that the need for people to scroll below the fold will keep them from using the menu.

As long as the anchor text used in the menu is chosen intelligently to telegraph what will be on the other side of the link, I think that it is an effective way of helping people know what they will find on the site in a glance. A small amount of non link text, such as headings or supporting text might also be helpful.

#5 bwelford


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Posted 09 August 2005 - 05:03 AM

Well I'm not sure about any of this. It is all for an intranet, I believe, so you can assume that visitors will stick with it and not click away to the 'competition'. However it doesn't go with that theme of 'Don't make me think'.

I wonder whether there should be a design principle of not having more than say a dozen clearly visible choices on any screen. You'd look at the likely traffic to figure out what those choices should be. Then clicking on your choice would give you another screen with some subchoices.

... as Nielsen says, the Amazon model is not a suitable model for other e-commerce websites. Perhaps that same principle (bigger isn't better) should be applied more widely.

#6 tam


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Posted 09 August 2005 - 08:01 AM

I definately don't like flyouts. Having to move across and then down the right distances makes it too easy to accidently leave the menu and have to repeat. Some of the others need precise mouse movements to navigate and that's making things a bit more difficult than needed.

I guess with a company intranet you also have the benefit of knowing what systems it's going to be used on. So you can tell whether expanding menus/drop-downs with cause a problem with browser versions/PC/Mac/Screen res etc. If you're not in a controled environment that's a much bigger problem. I've always been abit wary of those sort of menus, with straight text links you can be fairly certain everyone will be able to use it.

My choice for something like that would probably have been a nested list with the sublinks indented - a perminantly expanded collapse-expand menu.


#7 phaithful


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Posted 09 August 2005 - 05:28 PM

This is a very interesting study.

I agree how they decided to test with real people, but I don't agree that it's a simple choice of one navigation method over another.

I am a firm believe that the content and the information architecture will dictate what type of navigation method one will use.

Of course there are some navigation methods that are 'inherently' frustrating, like Tam mention the flyout menus are just not a good choice.

Personally I do like the "Yahoo" / Directory type of navigation but I'm not sure it's well implemented here.

While working on redesinging the City of San Diego's website we moved from an older static menu system to the "Yahoo" / Directory type of navigation.

It was perfect to bring most of the important content to the surface; however, we soon found out that we wanted to bring more and more to the front. This lead to large unwieldy text.

In addition, some citizens would be confused and didn't realized that there was more topics than what was just listed under each of the headings.

Granted not many sites have to work with 60+ departments and over 6000+ pages.

Probably the Directory style was the best solution, but it was not without it's drawbacks.

The results: we had to implement a secondary navigation at the top that, although broke the rule of duplicating navigation, was a necessity. The main navigation lead to pages that gave full path navigation to each topic / department.

As far as Intranets go:

I've always been trained that they don't need to act like websites that we normally surf on the web.

Really they should be designed almost like an application where one has all the tools at hand to get their job done faster and more efficiently.

The intranets that I've help design tend toward the boxy modular design. Something similar to the latest My Yahoo pages.

Where boxes of content can be added and removed at the users whim.

#8 travis


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Posted 10 August 2005 - 08:45 AM

we favored a style that the client wasn't overly fond of

This is a common issue for our business. Many customer neglect experience and common sense and make up in their minds how the users are going to react.

I am not saying we are always right, but this article presented the best approach - see what the punters say.

Most big customers who need a website for further growth are driven by very clever business people to begin with, so you have to reach a compromise between respecting their business aptitude and suggesting different approaches.

I find my self saying now " By illustration, our 25th customer, blah.com has experienced certain results after implementing this plan."

Without illustration, good business managers will talk straight over the top of you if they see you have no experience or demonstrated results.

Having said that, we learn from every customer, and we have noticed a huge difference in the marketing approach of each client.

Althought that was a great study, I dont think the results were different enough to make any huge inferences, especially given the fuzzy nature of the data collection to begin with. (A humans opinion)

Does anyone know what constiututes an error ?

#9 BillSlawski


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Posted 10 August 2005 - 09:21 AM

I'm not sure how you would exactly define an error, Travis. But, it might be easier to define successes.

I ran across a case study of a redesign that incorporated a Yahoo! styled navigation system. Thought it was well done, and I also thought of this thread while reading it:


A snippet:

I was extremely pleased with the results. The catalog page views returned to the pre-launch numbers, and eventually far exceeded them. Bailout was reduced as well. In user testing the anecdotal feedback was positive as well, with users commenting that they thought was had a broader selection of cards with this design, and we saw a higher rate of success at accomplishing tasks we set for them.

#10 EGOL



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Posted 19 August 2005 - 12:32 AM

This is a very nice study, thanks for sharing it. I will for sure come back and look at this again when I am building a new site.

Both of the recommended designs would work well on small to intermediate size sites.

One drawback from the dropdown menu is that the number of top level choices is constrained and if your site content does not fit neatly into just a few choices you will have to make hard decisions and those decisions will cost you some visitor losses - especially on a large site.

#11 TheManBehindTheCurtain


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Posted 21 August 2005 - 01:48 PM

I'd also say the results are very specific to the audience and the content. The "Yahoo style" menus may be best for a consumer audience, while the "Drop-down style" menus may work better for a technical audience. In doing sites for technical audiences, I find that many users and clients alike think something is actually wrong if the top navigation bar doesn't have drop-down menus. "Why aren't the menus working?" is one frequent question I got when launching a very small site with just a flat top-level menu.

#12 AbleReach


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Posted 24 August 2005 - 11:17 PM

If the links look like they should be leading to Really Big Topics, I want to see some way to expand the menu. IMO, exactly how the menu is expanded is less important than the appropriateness of how links are named. Predictability is a good thing where nav is concerned. Anything else is confusing.

Elizabeth :02:

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