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.
- 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: What are you looking for? She typed ”form” and ”sick” in the search field and immediately got suggestions from the auto complete: ”form sick leave” etc. Sally clicked on the first suggestion.
The search result list consisted of several items associated with the search suggestion ”form sick leave”. 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.
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.
Predefined navigation distracts your visitors in two ways:
- It forces them to try to think like you do in order to find the page
- 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.
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.
Stop guessing and start helping your visitors find the answers to what they are looking for.