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Reviewing some menu myths

From: User Experience Fundamentals for Web Design

Video: Reviewing some menu myths

There are two rules of thumb that have sprung up in many designs that don't really have a background in research. Or rather they do, but that research is being misinterpreted. The first is that all content should be no more than three clicks away from the homepage or else visitors will lose interest. This just isn't true. Having watched literally thousands of people using websites I can say that sometimes visitors will lose interest on just the first page they see. Other times they will continue clicking through many pages of content. What makes the difference is how likely they think it is that they will find the information they are looking for. As we have mentioned already they clues they see in the navigation and the content on your site are what keep them moving forwards.

Reviewing some menu myths

There are two rules of thumb that have sprung up in many designs that don't really have a background in research. Or rather they do, but that research is being misinterpreted. The first is that all content should be no more than three clicks away from the homepage or else visitors will lose interest. This just isn't true. Having watched literally thousands of people using websites I can say that sometimes visitors will lose interest on just the first page they see. Other times they will continue clicking through many pages of content. What makes the difference is how likely they think it is that they will find the information they are looking for. As we have mentioned already they clues they see in the navigation and the content on your site are what keep them moving forwards.

So it's important to provide them with a signpost that they need by creating good navigation labels and following those up with great headings, summaries, and other content within each page so that visitors are drawn through your site by a strong scent of information. The other concept you might have heard about is a Seven Plus or Minus Two rule. Applied to menus it states that menu should be no longer than nine items. Thus seven items plus or minus two items. This rule comes from psychological research into human memory. It refers to the number of items that we can hold in our short-term memory at one time.

Depending upon the task some people can hold as many as nine items, some people can only five, but most people, for most tasks, can hold about seven items. The interesting thing about the Seven Plus or Minus Two rule is that although it was never based on or designed for website menus it actually worked quite well. Once you get beyond seven or nine menu items, it gets harder for people to distinguish the item that they need. So even though you can't necessarily relate it back to the memory research it's a useful design rule to apply. Just don't be scared to break it every now and again. If you're going to have long menus it really helps if you can group the items into similar chunks and place separators between them.

That helps people quickly identify the relevant chunk and each chunk is likely to be less than seven plus or minus two items long. So don't worry about the three clicks concept. Instead make sure you always signpost where your content is. However, it's wise to limit your regular menus to no more than around seven items in the chunk in order to make it easier for visitors to parse the information and find the item they need.

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This video is part of

Image for User Experience Fundamentals for Web Design
User Experience Fundamentals for Web Design

52 video lessons · 27536 viewers

Chris Nodder
Author

 
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  1. 1m 7s
    1. Welcome
      1m 7s
  2. 4m 37s
    1. Building a site for your visitors
      1m 29s
    2. Understanding how people browse the web
      45s
    3. It's all about information
      48s
    4. What causes people to leave sites?
      1m 35s
  3. 3m 50s
    1. Simple design
      1m 9s
    2. Consistent design
      1m 11s
    3. Standard design
      1m 30s
  4. 20m 55s
    1. Elements of navigation
      1m 21s
    2. Content has a structure
      2m 18s
    3. Understanding menus
      3m 19s
    4. Reviewing some menu myths
      2m 4s
    5. Working with site maps
      1m 5s
    6. Adding search to your site
      2m 53s
    7. Understanding links
      3m 43s
    8. Exploring clickable elements
      1m 18s
    9. Understanding Fitts's Law
      2m 54s
  5. 11m 19s
    1. People can begin from any page on your site
      1m 24s
    2. Elements every web page should have
      3m 25s
    3. Creating progressive navigation
      3m 22s
    4. Arranging your content
      3m 8s
  6. 8m 7s
    1. How people read on the web
      2m 31s
    2. Writing for information exchange
      1m 43s
    3. Formatting pages for information exchange
      3m 53s
  7. 7m 21s
    1. Using your homepage as a site summary
      1m 50s
    2. Creating fresh content
      1m 20s
    3. Displaying navigation and search
      1m 25s
    4. The five-second test
      2m 46s
  8. 8m 8s
    1. Showing people what you've got
      3m 50s
    2. Making comparisons easy
      1m 24s
    3. Creating landing pages from ad campaigns
      2m 54s
  9. 11m 22s
    1. The real purpose of detail and product pages
      1m 16s
    2. Writing descriptive text
      2m 4s
    3. Using images to set context
      2m 17s
    4. Showing the price for products
      2m 27s
    5. Have a call to action
      1m 36s
    6. About Us: a special detail page
      1m 42s
  10. 10m 58s
    1. Ask for information in context
      2m 25s
    2. Making forms as painless as possible
      2m 34s
    3. Creating form fields
      3m 37s
    4. Handling errors gracefully
      2m 22s
  11. 9m 9s
    1. Using different types of media
      1m 55s
    2. Simple question: Does it enhance the experience?
      2m 15s
    3. Using graphics for explanation, not decoration
      1m 17s
    4. What is interactive content?
      1m 58s
    5. Laying out your page for media
      1m 44s
  12. 5m 3s
    1. Making money without selling out
      1m 37s
    2. Adding graphical ads
      2m 10s
    3. Creating text ads
      1m 16s
  13. 3m 42s
    1. Simple, consistent, and standard design
      2m 4s
    2. Consider your users and you'll be fine
      1m 38s
  14. 1m 31s
    1. More resources
      1m 31s

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