Join Chris Nodder for an in-depth discussion in this video Content has a structure, part of User Experience for Web Designers.
- The information you put on your site, the content, can properly be arranged in more than one way. It's important to work out what the primary way will be before you build your navigation structure because otherwise you'll end up adding more and more menu items as you go along until the whole navigation is a real mess. Most often, content is either category, audience or task based. If the content on your site can be summed up as verbs, that's doing words, then you have a task based navigation structure. Here we're looking at a financial products site. The navigation is all verb based. Balance, save, invest, plan. That creates a task based navigation.
Just be sure to use the words that your visitors would normally use when you create the navigation labels. People have to understand which section is most likely to be right for them. If your site's content is nouns, that's describing words, then it's likely that your main navigation will be by category, splitting up the different types of content on the site, for instance, by genre for music, or by occasion for florist. Here we have weddings, someone special, funerals, apologies and special offers. If instead, you have distinct user types, that is, different audiences, you might be designing your navigation to split the content so that it's relevant for each type of visitor.
Computer manufacturers often do this. Asking you whether your a home user, a small business, a medium or large business, or public sector. All because their products are different for these groups. Be careful if you choose to do this. Your visitors must be able to tell which category they're in and they may even be suspicious of your categories. For instance, wondering why small business computers are cheaper than consumer ones. Of course, you don't have to rely on just one type of navigation structure. You might decide that your content would benefit from both a category and a task based menu with audience related content on the home page.
Or, you might find that you have information that's better suited to a specific form of categorization. For instance, by popularity, or for promoted content, YouTube does this. By location, for news or local interest sites. By time, for news or historical sites. Or for instance, by alphabetical arrangement, on a library site, say. Typically, however, these specialist navigation structures tend to be the secondary navigation on the page. Or, used deeper within the site. You'd still use category, audience or task based navigation as your primary menu structure.
So, take the time to think about the best way of categorizing your content. Even if you're working on an existing site, the sooner you create a good content model, sometimes called the information architecture, the sooner you can arrange your content in a way that makes sense to your users.
User experience expert Chris Nodder teaches
- What people want from websites, how they search for information, how they read online, and how to structure your content to take advantage of this research
- How to use graphics to help rather than hinder visitors, how to integrate video, audio, and other media, and when to consider interactive rather than static content
- How to look at your site's homepage, forms, product pages, and content through the eyes of users to build a site that better meets their needs
- How to balance site content with advertising
There are never enough great interfaces in the world. Take this easy introduction to start making wonderful online experiences for your own users.
- Building a site visitors will like
- Using single, consistent, and standard design principles
- Creating good menus
- Working with site maps
- Adding search to a site
- Arranging content in a layout
- Writing for the web
- Creating category pages and landing pages
- Designing product pages and forms
- Using media and interactive content
- Balancing ads and content