Part of course:
- Why do we need Navigation?
- How should you design the navigation?
- Making search easy
- How to know if you did a good job with the navigation: The trunk test
If you wanted to buy a new hammer from a hardware store, imagine how you would go about doing this:
It could be a mixture of the two as well — you may try to navigate a bit to see how easy it is, and if you don’t find what you’re looking for, you may ask a clerk.
If you think about it, this is exactly how we use websites as well. We go looking around for a bit (Navigation), and if we cannot find what we came looking for, we hit the Search functionality. These are the two most critical components of your site, and minor usability flaws here can cause major annoyance to your users.
Let’s start with the Navigation.
Unlike our hardware store example, a website is not a physical space. It is different from a hardware store in three ways:
When we want to return to something on a website, instead of relying on a physical sense of where it is, we have to remember where it is in the conceptual hierarchy of the website and then retrace our steps.
Navigation puts this conceptual hierarchy up-front and center, and should ideally be a part of every page. It tells us what’s on the website and how to use it, making it a critical part of the User Experience of your site.
Persistent navigation is the set of elements that appear on top of every page. They follow certain conventions, and unless we have a substantial reason, we should stick to them:
One of the most critical elements of navigation is a link to Homepage, usually served by the Site ID (logo). It’s what the users click if they get lost — it’s the anchor that lets them return to the starting point if they want to start over.
Very simply, make the search box a simple box with no options, but allow limiting the scope of the search on the page of results.
Also, if scoping a search, add the word “for” so it reads like a sentence: “Search ___ for ___.” Here is a fantastic example where the placeholder text indicates that the search is scoped to just the publication:
Here’s a great test to run on your friends to see if you did a good job with the navigation. Leave them on a random page somewhere deep in your website and make sure they are able to answer these questions quickly, and without hesitation:
In the next tutorial, we will see how to design a good Homepage.