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Street Signs and Breadcrumbs


streetsignnavDesigning Navigation

Its a fact:


People won’t use your Website if they can’t find their way around it.

You know this from your own experience as a web user. If you go to a site and can’t find what you’re looking for or figure out how the site is organised, you’re not likely to stay long – or come back. So how do you create the proverbial “clear, simple, and consistent” navigation?

Scene from a Shopping Centre:

Picture this: It’s Saturday afternoon and you’re headed for the local shopping centre to buy a chainsaw.


As you walk through the door at sears, you’re thinking, “Hmmm. Where do they keep chainsaws?” As soon as you’re inside, you start looking at the department names, high up on the walls. (They’re big enough that you can read them from all the way across the store.)brd1


“Hmmm,” you think. “Tools? Or Lawn and Garden?” Given that Sears is so heavily tool-oriented, you head in the direction of Tools.

When you reach the Tools department, you start looking at the signs at the end of each aisle.brd2


When you think you’ve got the right aisle, you start looking at the individual products.

If it turns out you’ve guessed wrong, you try another aisle, or you may back up and start over again in the Lawn and Garden department. By the time you’re done, the process looks something like this.


brd4Basically, you use the store’s navigation systems (the signs and organising hierarchy that the signs embody) and your ability to scan shelves full of products to find what you’re looking for.

Of course, the actual process is a little more complex. For one thing as you walk in the door you usually devote a few microseconds to a crucial decision: Are you going to start by looking for chainsaws on your own or are you going to ask someone where they are?

It’s a decision based on a number of variables – how familiar you are with the store, how much you trust their ability to organise things sensibly, how much of a hurry you’re in, and even how sociable you are.









When we factor this decision in, the process looks something like this:brd5


Notice that even if you start looking on your own, if things don’t pan out there’s a good chance that eventually you’ll end up asking for directions anyway.

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Sources of information and further reading
When preparing this newsletter the main source of information and illustrations was Don't Make Me Think, A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability second edition by Steve Krug ISBN 0-321-34475-8
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