Getting Around: Navigation

Navigation is one of the key problems with site usability, as good navigation enables users to get from the home page to the information they seek, and then to the next bit of information after that, and so on.

Navigation is invisible and unnoticed if it's working properly, and only draws remarks when it is not.

Some sites, especially those in the travel and financial services industries, assume that the user has a good level of familiarity with the business. Presumably, this is because the tasks that a user performs used to be done by a trained professional (a travel agent or a stockbroker) with in-depth knowledge, and the same patterns were imposed on the "civilian" user.

Sites that fared better were those where the design didn't presume any knowledge of the subject matter and, better yet, were design to accommodate various mental models. For example, Edmunds was the most usable site, and allows a user to start their search by any of a handful of parameters (type of vehicle, manufacturer, price range, etc.)

While the organization of content into topic and subtopic helps users find their way to the information they need, most users do not develop a "mental model" of a Web site - when lost, they do not recall what how the page or topic they were viewing related to the overall structure of the Web site.

The organization of a large site into "sub sites" is particularly confusing, especially when a sub-site is self-contained and there is no clear way to navigate back to the site's "main" home page.

Some elements were effective to facilitate navigation:

Some elements were not effective to facilitate navigation:

Some elements frustrated navigation: