Key Navigation Aid "DOs"A number of empirical studies have been conducted on how users "navigate" - i.e., find their way around - websites using various navigation aids (links, menus, navigation bars, buttons, site maps, etc.). Many of the findings are related to how and where navigation aids should appear. The most important ones for NEES websites are the following:
- Organize navigation aids with user tasks in mind. Many sites
expose the organization of the site's files, rather than trying to
predict what the key user questions and goals are and showing clearly
how a user can meet his/her goal.
What are the top 10 things a user wants to do on your site? Spend time figuring out what those tasks are, then adjust your site's navigation to make them easy to accomplish. This will contribute more to site usability than almost anything else you can do (see Navigation Bars and Other Contextual Aids).
- Conform to the standard practice of having all links underlined,
and don't underline any text that isn't a link. Users have become
so familiar with this convention that they automatically correlate
underlining with links.
- Navigation bars (or bread-crumb trails) are critical in order to
give the user an understanding of where he/she is on your site.
Don't count on links and menus to help users find and use your key
content. Specific guidelines will be found under
Navigation Bars and Other Contextual
- Deactivate any link, menu item, or navigation bar item that leads to the "current location". There's no point in having the user select a link that will re-load the same location, since it simply wastes time. Eliminate the link or deactivate the menu or navigation bar item by changing it from a link to text. This guide, for example, deactivates the item on the navigation bar that brought the user to this page. That visually reinforces where the "current location" is, and also saves the user from accidentally re-loading the same page. (A user who purposely wants to re-load it can always use the browser's Reload button.)
Key Navigation Aid "DON'Ts"Equally important are the findings that indicate how navigation aids should not be used:
- Don't assume that users will
familiarize themselves with your site. On the contrary, a user who
is thwarted in carrying out his/her first task will never bother to
learn about the other things your site offers.
- Don't change the standard colors for links. That is, links
that have not yet been visited are shown in blue, and visited links
in magenta or purple. If more visibility is needed (see
Use of Fonts), change the link colors
to a darker shade - but keep them unmistakeably blue and purple.
- Don't label links, buttons, or menu items with meaningless phrases
like "Click Here". Users already know what links/menus/buttons are
and how to use them. What they need to see is text identifying what
will happen if they do click the element (see
Effective Use of Links).
- Don't confuse your users by implementing menus in "creative" ways. Follow standard usability guidelines for the design and placement of menus, as discussed in Menubars and Menus.