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  1. #1
    Non-Member Siltrince's Avatar
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    Design Effective Navigation in 10 Steps

    These comments are in regards to the SitePoint.com article \'Design Effective Navigation in 10 Steps\'.

    Nice article , but it's just common sense IMHO.

  2. #2
    SitePoint Wizard Mincer's Avatar
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    Re: Design Effective Navigation in 10 Steps

    Originally posted by Siltrince
    Nice article , but it's just common sense IMHO.
    Common sense isn't all that common though.

  3. #3
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    I would agree, this is mostly common sense stuff -- but, it's amazing how many people ignore common sense. My only gripe about the article is supporting old and obsolete browsers like Netscape 4.x. Honestly, it's a waste of time. The latest 2002 statistics for browser usage show that all Netscape browsers occupy only 3.4% of the market.

    I would never recommend coding for IE only, though I would strongly recommend burying Netscape 4.x and previous browsers. Code with a modern approach: XHTML, CSS, ECMAScript and so forth. Take a look at http://www.webstandards.org for more inspiration and rational behind my thinking.

    Just my two cents worth. I'll get off my soap box now.

  4. #4
    SitePoint Wizard Mincer's Avatar
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    In my mind, NutScrape 4 no longer exists.

    I shall forever banish it's very existence from my memory!

  5. #5
    SitePoint Evangelist Brandon Luhring's Avatar
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    Originally posted by Mincer
    In my mind, NutScrape 4 no longer exists.

    I shall forever banish it's very existence from my memory!
    No kidding. One of the greatest follies of our time. Let's all be anti-progressive in a world where things are outdated every few months anyway!

    Natural Selection isn't just a biology theory, it's life.

    "Don't be Adventurous" Whoo Hoo! Go mediocrity!

  6. #6
    SitePoint Columnist Skunk's Avatar
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    A few comments on the three suggested navigation methods. Firstly, Flash for navigation is a huge, huge mistake. Text based browsers and screen readers instantly lose out (Flash MX is meant to be better at accessibility but it still isn't supported by all screen readers) and more importantly you're hiding your valuable links from search engine spiders and other useful scripts. How's Google going to index your site if it can't see the links to the other pages? The disadvantages of Flash navigation far outweigh the advantages.

    In my opinion, the most effective toolbar method is to use CSS. With a few clever border / background effects you can turn a simple list of links in to a sleek looking menu system, all with a nimimal amount of code and in a way that is completely backwards compatible with older browsers (they'll stil display the navigation, it just won't look as nice). A great example of this technique in action is the menu on Eric Meyer's site: www.meyerweb.com

    Don't forget the CSS/transparent gif background trick as well for spicing up image navigation without using javascript (see www.wired.com for a demo or read this article).

    One of the most important things to remember when designing navigation is that it should work in the lowest common denominator - if the navigation doesn't work in a text based browser such as Lynx there's something very wrong with it. Lynx users may not get to see your pretty design but if they can't use your navigation they won't be able to use your site at all - and remember, anything that can't be viewed by lynx probably can't be viewed by Google either.

  7. #7
    SitePoint Enthusiast blakems's Avatar
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    Red face Is this article 2 years old

    This article is applicable to web design 2 years ago. Some of the points are still valid, however most of it is old news. Netscape 4.x...ha! No more coding for that browser disaster.

  8. #8
    SitePoint Evangelist azizur_rahman's Avatar
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    1. Text-Driven Toolbars
    ....
    ....
    ...

    Advantages: Fast loading
    Disadvantages: Can be dull
    Seems to forget about how search engine can pick up the keywords used in Navigation and lead to more traffic. unlike image rollover and flash search engines can text based navigation plus those voice enabled system works perfectly.

    Can be dull! I think thats just undermining the power of CSS2. if used effectively.. even flash wont come close to it.

    Over all great article for people with no common sence (meaning those who rush into doing things without thinking about it).
    Last edited by azizur_rahman; Oct 24, 2002 at 06:03.
    Azizur Rahman
    Web Application Developer

  9. #9
    Shiny Content! Pandrogas's Avatar
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    Cool Not Too Bad...

    Not bad, but the "Contact Us" link is actually a recommended piece inside the navigation, especially if your a company. This is one of the few points I will agree with usability experts on (reference: http://www.useit.com).
    Matthew Gowdy---AKA---Pandrogas
    SeerNET: Various Geekery All Around

    Contact Information: E-Mail - AIM: Pandrogas

  10. #10
    SitePoint Evangelist Brandon Luhring's Avatar
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    don't you find it a little odd that web designers talk about designing for the lowest common denominator? The fact that we all became web designers says that we never did! Most of us started doing this before most people even had access to the Internet.

    I'm not saying to forget about others... That is illogical, and you can miss out on lots of traffic and/or revenue. But we can browser detect. Supply Flash menu when you can, display nice CSS text when you can, go pure text when you have to.

    Where do you draw the line? I'm sure someone out there, somewhere is still surfing the net with Netscape 1. He'd be the lowest common denominator, and then you couldn't use much of anything. No. Once they fall below a certain percentage then you move on. You progress.

    Using Flash navigation isn't a sure-fire way to miss the search engines either... My site uses Flash nav and does extremely well in the search engines. You can also detect Flash. Won't be much longer before search engines read links in Flash. They already read PDFs, DOCs, etc...

    Sitemaps help. They help for that lowest common denominator too.

    ...sorry for my incoherent rant. It just gets me that we are in one of the most progressive mediums in the world, and yet we're told to not be adventerous. I also believe that we are just contributing to the dumbing-down of society by saying we must conform to a set type of navigation system because some people otherwise won't "get it." Lots of people don't "get" classic literature either, but that didn't stop the great writers from telling their stories. Did you want Shakespeare to write comics so that everyone could undestand? No. He did, however, supply jokes for the "peanut gallery" to keep them entertained while the upper-class "understood." He supplied both. Kind of like browser detection...

  11. #11
    SitePoint Wizard Mincer's Avatar
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    Brandon,

    I'll put my 2p in for the counter arguement.

    Why use flash for navigaion at all? No really, what's the point? The web is a medium for deployment of information. If I want someone to know what I, or my company do, then I need to get that information across in a easy to understand, and fast to navigate, format. I like your site, but I see no need at all for the navigation to animate like that. It's slow to load and animate (and I'm on 512k), you'll lose visitors with that, especially 56k users (who are still in the majority around the world).

    You can get very good looking sites and navigation using very simple techniques that are also very fast to load. These sites are also usually very easy to navigate for the information you want.

    [/2p]

    Matt.

  12. #12
    SitePoint Enthusiast thechronic's Avatar
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    What I also see on many websites and what I often find really irritating are javascript pull-down menus for navigation.

  13. #13
    SitePoint Zealot
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    Entertainment value?

    Mincer,
    Why use flash for navigaion at all? No really, what's the point? The web is a medium for deployment of information. If I want someone to know what I, or my company do, then I need to get that information across in a easy to understand, and fast to navigate, format.
    I'm not a great fan of a lot of Flash stuff on the web because it often just gets in the way, but the internet is more than just about ascii information. For me, part of the attraction is the ability to do new things and see new things that you can't do in a newspaper or even on tv. The business world wants economical information, but when I get home at night, sometimes I don't mind seeing something a bit groovy and imaginative (in the navigation or elsewhere), and I might just come back to that site to see more. That might not have anything to do with information.
    Paul Davey
    webmaster for Whitford Church of Christ

  14. #14
    SitePoint Evangelist Brandon Luhring's Avatar
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    Originally posted by Mincer
    Why use flash for navigaion at all? No really, what's the point? The web is a medium for deployment of information. If I want someone to know what I, or my company do, then I need to get that information across in a easy to understand, and fast to navigate, format. I like your site, but I see no need at all for the navigation to animate like that. It's slow to load and animate (and I'm on 512k), you'll lose visitors with that, especially 56k users (who are still in the majority around the world).
    I'm certainly not holding my site up as the epitomy of great Flash navigation. It's not. Not even close. It doesn't offer an alternative non-flash menu, even though I do that for client sites, I just haven't given the time to add that functionality to my own site...

    I'm not trying to say that Flash nav should be used everywhere either.

    What I am saying is that it's rediculous to flat out tell designers/developers to never use it. People should push limits. People should try new things. Pick your target audience, and if most of them have 56k modems, then use a text nav only. If some have good connections and equipment, try offering two versions that automatically are selected based on user ability (none of that "click here if you have Flash" junk).

    Just don't encourage people to hold back at all costs. Not every site is amazon.com. Not every site has to play to the masses. Target audience.

    My site: most people using text/voice browsers wouldn't enjoy it anyway (except for my essays). It works on both, I've tried them... But, it doesn't need to be specifically geared for it. Who's my target audience... right now, it's design firms. They've got good connections, they've got hi-res monitors, they've got Flash. I should try to be adventurous...

  15. #15
    SitePoint Wizard Mincer's Avatar
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    But what does flash give you for navigation that you can't do in other ways? Not a lot. Yes, flash can add to a site in many ways other than navigation, but it's like saying "I have access to a nuclear reactor so I'll use it to boil water for my coffee". Is it worth the hassle of donning a radiation suit, and disposing of the waste just so the water is boiled 30 seconds faster than using a kettle? It's the same with flash navigation. If you can come up with an entirely new and innovative way to navigate a site that you can only create in flash, then sure, go ahead. But 99.9% of the flash navigation I see add nothing to my site experience, and is usually annoying.
    Last edited by Mincer; Oct 25, 2002 at 06:34.

  16. #16
    SitePoint Evangelist Brandon Luhring's Avatar
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    http://www.curiousmedia.com/

    their navigation (actually whole site) is done in Flash. It adds to the concept behind their company name as well as an invaluable attribute to the entire user experience.

    Could they have conceptually done it with CSS and text. Yes. They could have had text that matches the bg until your mouse goes over it, somewhat showing the "curious" nature of the site. Would that solution ever touch the effectiveness of what they DO have? No.

    If they had read the article under question and listened to their advice, would they have anything nearly as effective. Possibly, but doubtful.
    Last edited by Brandon Luhring; Oct 25, 2002 at 09:04.

  17. #17
    SitePoint Wizard Mincer's Avatar
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    Originally posted by Brandon Luhring
    http://www.curiousmedia.com/

    their navigation (actually whole site) is done in Flash. It adds to the concept behind their company name as well as an invaluable attribute to the entire user experience.

    Could they have conceptually done it with CSS and text. Yes. They could have had text that matches the bg until your mouse goes over it, somewhat showing the "curious" nature of the site. Would that solution ever touch the effectiveness of what they DO have? No.
    Sorry, I gave up waiting after 10 seconds.

    Originally posted by Brandon Luhring
    If they had read the article under question and listened to their advice, would they have anything nearly as effective. Possibly, but doubtful.
    I thought the arguement against flash was counter what the article said anyway.

  18. #18
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    Nice

    This is a nice article for beginners, however I don't agree with the point about leaving the "contact us" menu item at the bottom. When I design sites, the contact us menu item is right on top, in plain view. Keep in mind that many users that are using the web are not that familiar with the web browsers, they are not thinking about looking for the contact button at the bottom. This goes against the first point "don't make the user think" Even myself (as an exerpienced web person, at least I'd like to think so), when I go on a site, it's not just to look for info, I'd like to ask questions once in a while. And unless your site is designed for one screen resolution (or dynamic resolution, which most of us won't bother with), I don't like to scroll all the way down the screen to find the contact button.

    Just my 1 cent.

  19. #19
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    common sense, flash and target audiences

    Everyone here is making good sense.... and we do agree that common sense is not all that common.

    It never hurts to touch base with the fundamentals now and then, either. If you want to read some articles more current (than this one) about design + navigation, go here:

    http://www.informit.com/isapi/page~1/n~{77EAD1C4-B7AE-41F1-86B2-5ED775554AFA}/session_id~{8DE1E9C3-2FE6-49FB-84C2-28F48E12E2E9}/articles/index.asp

    [Though you have to pause and take a minute or so to register... it's free.]

    SitePoint still rules, though, IMO, since we have a great community here with excellent give-and-take.

    Anyhow... Flash works wonders for product demonstrations and other types of marketing that are boosted by Flash capabilities. I would have to agree with Mincer, though, about navigation. Yeah, Flash works for navigation, but that's not its strong suit. Using Flash in that context seems like the old "Hey, I can use it, so why not?" --which isn't really a good way to judge what works the best when designing a site or its navigation.

    But then, that leads back to what Brandon is saying, which should always be one of the very first things any designer thinks about: targeting, researching and knowing your audience. And we'll find that there are some audiences that a Flash navigation system would thrill. Not many unique visitors, to be sure, and very few customers but hey, it'll impress the HELL out those that do show up!

    With the $$ and the time behind so much of the web these days, how many of us, and our potential clients will want to fool with a Flash menu so we can impress a few kids and some entertainment-seeking adults where no $$ are being generated?

    And now that my own 2 cents has been deposited, I hear the click......

  20. #20
    SitePoint Evangelist Brandon Luhring's Avatar
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    Re: common sense, flash and target audiences

    Originally posted by bootstrap
    Not many unique visitors, to be sure, and very few customers but hey, it'll impress the HELL out those that do show up!
    everyone seems stuck on this idea that if you use Flash navigation you loose search engines.

    wrong, wrong, wrong.

    I've done three sites using a flash nav. BUT, I do realize Flash's inabilities, so I detect Flash, if no flash or no javascript, the user sees either text or image buttons. I also provide a text link to a site map.

    All three pages are doing quite well with the search engines. Two of them are meant to make money and have done so. One, my own, is not meant to make money, but rather find a job. It, too, has earned me some money from people who want me to freelance for them.

    ...usually they do take a little longer to load, but I have gotten them down to 20k which is as small and smaller than most image-based navigations.

    As far as curious media's site goes. The whole thing is done in Flash, so it's obsured to assume that you wouldn't have to wait 10 seconds or so. If they had JUST done the navigation, it would load much, much faster.
    Last edited by Brandon Luhring; Jan 18, 2003 at 23:40.


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