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In this issue
World Usability Day was held on November 13th. It was an overwhelming success with over 170 events in 43 countries. The goal of World Usability Day is to make our world work better. It's about "Making Life Easy". You can view highlights of the day on the World Usability Day website.
As part of World Usability Day, Gord Hopkins and Gerry McGovern presented a webinar on "Designing Navigation with Task Management". The full webinar recording can be downloaded from the Customer Carewords website. We had over 1000 people attend from 8 countries.
One popular topic covered in the webinar was contextual navigation. We have been observing a definite trend towards providing more local, task-specific navigation links while significantly reducing the number of global links maintained on each page.
Why? Because, as Gerry Mc Govern has pointed out on several occasions…
Amazon is constantly refining their customer experience, including making changes to their navigation strategy. The top screen shot was taken about a year ago when tabs for each major section of their online store were maintained and repeated on all sub-pages.
The screen shot in the lower half of the image above shows their website today. Once you have selected a department, for example "Music", all the global links to the other departments are represented by the one global link labelled, "Shop All Departments". This allows you to really focus on the task at hand. All content and links are specific to the topic of interest. Even the search box defaults to only search Canadian music.
There are links back to the parent nodes: Jazz and Music. However, the rest of the left navigation is specific to browsing Canadian Jazz music. It doesn't make sense to offer links to books, DVDs, software, etc. after you've indicated your interest in Jazz. These irrelevant links would only serve to distract you from the task at hand and take up valuable real estate.
The BBC website makes good use of contextual navigation. Notice how once Sport and Football have been selected, those parent links are shown on the left but all other navigation is specific to Football. You no longer see links to News, Weather, Radio or TV.
People are impatient on the web. They are in a hurry. They want to get things done. And, they do not want you to waste their time. Anything that slows them down will frustrate them.
Links are like highway road signs, helping people move closer to their goal. But, if you were racing through a website at 100 km/hr which of the following signs would be more useful?
The signage on the left is all that is needed at this juncture — a simple and quick decision between two options. Too often web navigation includes links to a huge range of potential destinations, most irrelevant to the current task and decision.
With the signage on the right, it would certainly take you much longer to scan the signs and determine relevance to your current task. You would also likely make more errors and/or get distracted.
Remember, each new element you add makes existing content more difficult to find. Once someone has chosen a path, only present those links which are immediately relevant to that stage of the task. Also make sure that the words used for your link labels are those your visitors are expecting.
Get people onto the desired task path as quickly as possible, maintain links to the parent nodes for the content page they are on, then remove all other global navigation which is irrelevant to the current task.
Remember, on those rare occasions where someone wants to change context, it is only one click back to Home or a major hub. The trade-off is between providing contextually-relevant links and information versus the effort of changing contexts.
Email us or give us a call (613 271-3001) if you need help determining your tops tasks and/or the most appropriate navigation scheme to use for your website.
One of the questions asked during our recent webinar on navigation was:
If you look at the BBC Sport landing page you'll notice that they cover some of the top tasks in the content pane by giving the top sports stories, sports scores, etc. The list of available sports is shown on the left in order of interest (14 items). The next click on the left provides essentially a new landing page for the chosen sport.
If you look at the Transport for London website: the 'Getting around' tab you'll notice that they support the top task of planning your journey on the right but allocate the entire central area to a categorized set of links. They do not use a left-hand menu at this level. Again, they are treating this landing page more like a Home page for this specific context. The role of this page is to get the user as quickly as possible to their end goal. The links shown under each category link are the top links for that category. Providing the top sub-links under each category serves two important functions: 1) they act to define the category by example and 2) they provide one-click short-cuts to 3rd or 4th level content representing frequent tasks in this context.
Avoid duplicating links on the left and in the middle. This wastes valuable real estate. If you must have redundant links on the left, ensure the link labels are identical to those in the middle or people will wonder if the small differences are significant and waste time exploring both versions of the link.
Landing pages should primarily contain actionable links and support for one or two of the top tasks. People do not read on the web until they get to their final destination. Therefore, you want to focus on providing the links they are looking for as clearly and concisely as possible.
Neo Insight is still looking for potential partnerships and consultants.
We are growing because usability has become a strategic objective for many of our clients. And we look forward to continued growth. Our new partnership with Gerry McGovern and Customer Carewords has brought us new techniques, new data and experience to build on. It has also brought us new partners: we're working closely with Rolf Molich and Bob Johnson on two major projects, for example.
We need more sub-contractors, consultants, partner organizations and employees who can help with Expert Usability Evaluations, Remote Usability Testing, Comparative Usability Evaluations, Visual Design and User Interface Design for websites and applications. There are also opportunities to grow with us into new usability techniques, especially those related to our Customer Carewords partnership, and to establish business relationships for our mutual benefit.
If you're interested in working with us on short-term contracts, in partnering with us, or looking for a longer-lasting relationship, send us an email, or call us: (613) 271-3001.
Quote of the month
“Although it has some limited use, global navigation is overrated. Contextual navigation offers much more value, providing direct links to elements that are highly relevant to the user's current location (and presumably their current interest [task]).” – Jakob Nielsen, 2004
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