Tabbed UI widgets used to be confined to interface atrocities on the desktop. Since then, designers using CSS reasoned what's badly done on the desktop can be just as badly done for written content on web sites.
Using tabs for content can always be done in a right way or a wrong way. When you don't consider something can be done wrong, you practically insure they will be done wrong.
Common. Neat. Wrong.
The User Interface Hall of Shame discusses proper interaction design theory for dialog boxes. Nothing really addresses the current practice of using tabs for written content -- much less writing with a tabbed interface in mind.
The results is a triumph of because we can over because we should. Common. Neat. And wrong.
Problems start when the top or leftmost tab is information poor. Users who don’t get the proper informatgion they expect on the first tab correctly reason the other tabs are equally uninformative. Use the first tab for confirmation the user has arrived at the right site first. Then provide a complete overview on that very first page -- do not send users on a scavenger hunt just to get a basic overview.
Think facets not fragments
Tabs are not shot gun pellets fired off in the futile hope you’ll hit a user. Any user will do. That’s refusal to do basic research into who is using they site or why.
Instead use one central coordinating idea, then show different facets of that core “theme.” For example your business consultancy can write about balance: What in business is out of balance; Who you are gives you a unique insight into the problem of balance, How you use the balanced scorecard to restore balance.
Even a contact form page can summarize what the client can expect when they respond.
Do not use a tabbed interface to display name, rank, and serial number, like a prisoner under interrogation. People do not want to go on a scavenger hunt to get a complete picture, so don’t fragment your message simply because the cool layout has tabs.
Interface Hall of Shame
- Tabbed Dialogs -
The site is practically unknown because UI design on the web simply has no shame.