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Website is easy to navigate

by rcooper — last modified Mar 09, 2011 08:52 AM

(M) Website is easy to navigate (you know where you are in the site and how to get back to the home page, e.g. uses breadcrumb trail)

Websites must have clearly visible navigation. For example, in IWLEARN's Toolkit sites, "Navigation" is clearly labelled (though this is not required).
Design for your user
Think like a user. Imagine yourself wanting to find information. What makes sense to you? What would help you find information more easily and quickly? Try to anticipate how a user who has never seen your website will view the information. Get some users who are not familiar with your trial website to test your user interface and give you feedback.
Placement of navigation aids
Keep in mind people's reading habits. For English- and most European-language websites, text is read left to right and from top to bottom. Therefore it makes sense for secondary navigation to be placed on the left side in a 2 or 3-column page layout. Eye-tracking studies have shown that the eye tends to concentrate on the upper left-hand part of the page. The eye reads the first few words of the top heading, and then scans down the left-hand margin of the text column for other important words in the subheading and page links (“F” pattern). Similarly, most users expect specific types of information to be located in certain places. These expectations should be given great weight in the design of web pages unless there is an overriding technical reason not to do so.

Orientation aids
Breadcrumb bars. A breadcrumb bar on each web page helps users keep track of where they are within a particular website. Breadcrumbs are links that provide a trail back to the home page. Usually breadcrumb bars are near the top of each page below the banner or other header information.

Landmarks. Some designers use landmarks to assist in path finding. For example, landmarks can be colourful photos of images relevant to the topic on the page. Thus, should the user unexpectedly link back to the page, the image would immediately identify the page as one already visited. It is extremely important that landmark images be static and always in the same location on each page. Image slide shows are useless as landmarks and should be obviously separate.

Colour. The background colour of breadcrumb bars, menu bars, or other design elements might be used to signify that the user is in a particular topical neighbourhood. For example, the wetlands section of an IW project site might have green navigation bars, and the water section might have blue bars.


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