Search based vs. predefined navigation, 2-0

Sally was desperate to find a specific form to apply for sick leave. She had been told that she could find it on the ”Navigation is king” website.

– Hmm, I don’t know what the form is called… and I don’t have a clue of where it might be in this website, she said loudly to herself and clicked around between a few headings in the menu.

All the pages looked the same, a thick header with a navigation bar in the top. Page specific content further down, being squeezed in at the middle between the left sub navigation bar and a right column packed with links and pictures. She looked at the menu headings again: ”Do they relate it to ”At work” or ”For workers” or ”Health”?.. nope.. not there either..”

– Where is the bloody form? she shouted and indignantly closed the browser. I guess I have to call them instead, if they answer on the phone that is, she mumbled and headed for the coffee machine.

– I suggest you try looking at another website called ”Search is the only alternative”, a colleague of hers said while pouring himself a cup of coffee from the machine.

Sally sighed.
– Since I don’t even know what form I am looking for, it´s kind of difficult to search for it. At ”Navigation is King” at least I had some headings and menus to guide me.
– And look where that got you, he said ironically while they went back to their computers.

– I’ll show you how hard it is, she said and entered the web site ”Search is the only alternative”.

The start page consisted of a large search field with one question: <em>What are you looking for? </em>She typed ”<em>form</em>” and ”<em>sick</em>” in the search field and immediately got suggestions from the auto complete: ”<em>form sick leave</em>” etc.  Sally clicked on the first suggestion.

The search result list consisted of several items associated with the search suggestion ”<em>form sick leave</em>”.  Many of the results seemed interesting at a first glance.

The most relevant search result was the ”Illness Absence Application”. She felt relieved while opening the application page. It was the answer to what she was looking for.

– This is what I call navigation to the point! she said happily to her colleague.
– There you go! And it wasn’t that hard to find it, was it? Even though you didn’t know what you needed to find in the first place.

<em>Predefined navigation hierarchies are defined by people guessing how their visitors associate their content. It is impossible to define a hierarchy matching all your visitors. This leads to more guesses, this time for the visitor.</em>

<em>Predefined navigation distracts your visitors in two ways:</em>
<li><em>It forces them to try to think like you do in order to find the page </em></li>
<li><em>It diminishes the full value of the content they came for since it is squeezed in on the only spot left when all other spaces are taken up by navigation bars. </em></li>
<em>The perfect hierarchy is the one created by the user. The perfect content is the content where everything on the page is of value to the user. Everything including links to deeper understanding within the context. </em>

<em>Stop guessing and start helping your visitors find the answers to what they are looking for. </em>

<em>Related findings: </em>

<em><a href=””>A/B testing case study: Removing navigation meny increased conversions by 100 %</a> </em>

<em><a title=”Why content navigation links matter more than menus” href=””>Why content navigation links matter more than menus  </a></em>

Skistar goes social – a story of addiction

<a href=””><img class=”alignleft size-medium wp-image-255″ title=”skiing” src=”×240.jpg” alt=”” width=”300″ height=”240″ /></a>Peter was back online again. After intensive skiing in the mountains of Sälen he had a feeling he had achieved a top ranking today. At his profile page he could see that he finally set a new personal record by skiing 20 000 vertical meters in one day. Hah! And Mike who insisted it was impossible in Sälen.

He looked at the results of everyone today and found his name on number 5. There were only 4 other people on the whole mountain who had skied more meters than him. Peter could hardly wait to tell his friend Mike about it when he came back from the slopes.

He didn’t have to wait so long. The next minute he heard the door open and saw Mike standing in the hallway.

– I beat the record, he shouted to Mike.
– What record? Mike said while snapping up his boots.
– 20 000 vertical meters in one day!
– Oh really? Is it that web thing you told me about yesterday?

Mike wasn’t really into this ”web thing”. I´m here for the skiing experience, not for surfing the web” he had said yesterday.

– Exactly! It’s this web thing. All the numbers are in here; Peter said waving his ski pass in one hand and his phone in the other.
– You just log on to the service via your phone and find statistics of all the runs you´ve made, calories burned, types of slopes you have taken, other friends’ location on the mountain, etc. And do you know what?
– No, Mike said and sounded a bit tired. What?
– Today I am one of the top 5 skiers on the whole mountain! I even got a new pin for taking the steepest slope. Why don’t you get an account to see how well you scored today?

Mike removed his skiing boots and put the jacket in the drying cabinet and brought out his phone.

– Alright, what´s this thing called, he said staring at his phone. Does it work instantly?
– Mmhm, Peter nodded. If you register now all your runs since you first came here they will be visible online.

Peter was busy adding friends with the other skiers online. It felt great to get new friends sharing the same interest as he had. He refreshed the page. All of a sudden he found himself being placed as number 6 on the chart of today.

– Damn, he shouted and showed Mike his phone. Someone just took my placement in the chart.

Mike looked at him with a victorious smile.

– Guess who?

Peter sighed loudly. But of course.
Luckily there was a new day of skiing tomorrow. A new day filled with challenges on the mountain. And on the Internet.

<em>Like many ski resort providers, has booking online for accommodation and ski passes, web cams showing weather conditions in the slopes, information on current snow depth and number of lifts open. These features save time for the visitors prior to and during their ski trip. </em>

<em>As a separate layer, the new social web <a href=” ”> </a>takes the experience to a whole new level. Creating a need, highly addictive for competitive skiers, based upon the rudiments of gamification. Rewarding the skier with instant feedback of his progress compared to past achievements as well as to other skiers on the resort. Also providing Skistar with a tremendous amount of information based on skiing behavior that helps them to attract more visitors online and to the resorts.</em>

<em>PS. On a personal note, I have been to Sälen twice now in a month without making any top ranking. Yet.</em>