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Design efficient and simple navigation

Wednesday, October 1st, 2014 by Servage

Website Navigation by IA DesigningWe web designers have to understand the business or needs of the clients at firsthand and plan website layout accordingly. During layout preparation, first of all, we understand the content structure and think of content hierarchy. In due course, we put labels on the content. With content labeling, we try to explain our navigation choices indirectly. Thus, content structure and its labeling shape the content architecture for the web designers as well as web development teams by-and-large.

In simple words, content of the web page provides contextual information and structuring them in a logical manner makes a solid information architecture. Therefore, when we are labeling content and its related web pages, we are laying a foundation for the website map web page (HTML). At one facet of the coin, content should be unique, exciting, and guiding its readers to take actions in favor of the website goals. Whereas at another facet of coin, navigation should be conventional, easy to understand and logical in manner.

Expectations in Navigation Designing

As discussed above, we have formulate the structuring and labeling of content thus, defined the navigational choices. Now, our next part is to design the navigation menu that can accommodate these choices perfectly. Therefore, we have to think about the designing of the types of navigation menus (main, auxiliary, bottom, etc.) that can enhance user experiences and should be usable at any cost.

If we look at the user behavior closely, we can categorize our users in two categories, one who knows what she wants including the name of the items and second, who doesn’t know exactly what she wants (including the name of the item), but have some picture or features in the mind.

In real life world, when we visit a shopping mall and look at the various items we realize that some particular items are useful for us to do some critical tasks so we make purchase. In online business, numbers of visitors carry same mindset and surfing websites aimlessly and somewhere they buy unpredicted items.

During navigation designing, we need to keep this psych in consideration and offer two options, one conventional and another advance. Labeling content/web page with comprehensive and contextual tags guide users perfectly through step-by-step navigation and it can be said as the conventional or primary navigation. Search box at the top of each web page or mainly on home page acts as the reception desk in the shopping mall and provide shortcuts to access the expected content directly.

However, this search box is considering the advanced navigational scheme when it has suggestive, faceted search, filtered search, etc. features, which let any users to find out expected items/content quickly and accurately. Suggestive search features let new visitors to get some new items/content by simply typing initial letter/s of the item names by selecting from the dropdown menu (suggestion list).

For experienced users, filters and faceted search like advance features prove a blessing to save time and experience smooth sailing to navigate pre-decided items in a big/huge e-commerce website or a web portal.

Some Fundamentals of Designing Navigation

As discussed before, we are labeling the content means we are allocating some keywords or key phrases to the content in a hierarchy. Therefore, we can term these labels/keywords as the Meta data in technical/programming sense. In short, these Meta data are providing information about the information and forming an information architecture.

We need to arrange these Meta data in a hierarchy where bottom line/layer has actual content/labels of web page, on top of it we have to categories the Meta data and place as the Meta data categories or we can say products/services categories in simple words. These categories are further categorized and placed in the top layers respectively. This categorization narrow down the choices of the content in traditional menu listing as well as in filtered search.

There are various kinds of Meta data categories like crucial, optional, and irrelevant, but we will explore them in detail in another post next time.
References & More Reading
Efficiently Simplifying Navigation, Part 1: Information Architecture
Presenting Information Architecture
The difference between Information Architecture (IA) & Website Navigation

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