Media praise for Web Navigation: Designing the User Experience

"one of the best all-encompassing books on the subject. The author of the book, Jennifer Fleming, does an excellent job of explaining from the ground up on how to build a successful Web Navigation system in the comprehensive 251 page book with quotes, commentary and screen shots that deconstruct some of today's leading websites... if you are involved in creating websites, whether it be as a programmer, designer or project manager, I recommend that you pick up this book. The concepts presented in the first few chapters of the book are timeless and will apply for as long as the Internet exists." --Matt Mickiewicz,

"4/5 - Addresses the really important issues, l lot's of good advice, an important book for site designers everywhere.", Feb 24, 2001

One of my favorite ways of learning is by sight, looking at others and then learning from their mistakes or even by what they did do right. That's what makes this book really nice, is the fact that its organized by site types, and then shows you what sites are doing it right; that way you get an idea on how to do it right also." --Raymond G. Angel,, April 2001

"Good examples on how to design successful websites" --Isaac Waisberg,, Feb 2001

"This book explores the elements of effective, usable web site design. In addition to this useful and important discussion, the author adds a generous dose of excitement. Throughout the book, cameo portraits of major web designers give us just a taste of their philosophies and current concerns. The resulting book is a mixture of solid design principles and tantalizing design possibilities. This is a beautifully designed, highly readable book." -- Nancy Allison, HyperviewsOnline, March 2000

"Jennifer Fleming knows that the best way to prove a point is to use a striking example. She loads Web Navigation:Designing the User Experience with quotes and screen shots that deconstruct some of the most fascinating, successful, and innovative sites devised. Fleming also recommends books within Web Navigation's margins that cover the discussed subjects in more depth. Far from distracting, Fleming's style allows the reader to take notes, think about what each site's page is trying to accomplish, and refocus with the author on the topic. . .From design basics to concept meetings to Web heuristics, Fleming casts a wide net without diluting her message: focus on the uers's experience." --Jennifer Buckendorff,

"As a book reviewer, I tend to get jaded as the next crop of books appears on my desk. Oh goodness (yawn), another book on how to master Java in a week (yeah, right). And in the midst of all these endless tomes comes a gleaming jewel: Jennifer Fleming's book Web Navigation:Designing the User Experience. Now here's a concept I'd be eager to read about! ...So should you spend your hard-earned money on Fleming's book? I'll tell you this much: don't ask me to lend you my copy of this'll be parked next to the rest of my classic Web development books, where it will remain until it is too dog-eared to read. O'Reilly is getting well known for publishing books that become industry standards, and Web Navigation is no exception!" --Scott Clark,

"Kudos to Fleming for her excellent research, approachable tone and generosity of information. If you're looking for help in giving your site's visitors a more positive experience than they get today, this book is an excellent place to start. It provides ideas and direction, not preachy rules that apply to someone else's site." --Lynda Weinman, in the foreword

"essential reading." --Roy Johnson November 1998

"A thought-provoking book on designing intuitive Web site navigation. The book is less a cookbook than an exploration of strategies and methodologies to better navigational design." - Andy King,

"O'Reilly, well known for its vast number of content heavy books for the techie crowd is also the first to realize the lack of information about designing Web Navigation systems. To fill in the gaping hole they released Web Navigation: Designing the User Experience, which retails for $34.95 US. After many reprints, it is still one of the best all-encompassing books on the subject." --Matt Mickiewicz,, August 2000

"She's come almost out of nowhere. Jennifer Fleming, an information scientist from the little-known Massachusetts College of Art, has until now kept well away from the Web design spotlight. Her name hasn't rated a mention next to the likes of David (Killer Web Sites) Siegel, Lynda (Designing Web Graphics) Weinman and Lou (Information Architecture for the World Wide Web) Rosenfeld. Fleming's minnow-like consultancy, Square Circle Solutions, has none of the profile of a Razorfish, Adjacency or InterActive Bureau.

"But with her book Web Navigation: Designing the User Experience, Fleming has created a true Web design text for the late 1990s. This 250-page volume accepts the Web for what it is - a task-based mass medium reaching for its audience through the often clouded glass of the computer-based browser screen. Rather than fuss over the Web's elusive true form (publishing medium? hyper-animated poster? PC software platform? supermarket?), Fleming simply accepts the obvious: there are all sorts of sites out there. For Fleming, tellingly, the design challenge lies not with deciding the right sort of site, and certainly not with the look of your navigation buttons. Instead, the challenge lies with adapting sites to the increasingly well-documented struggles of their audience. Fleming's book starts with Web users, ends with Web users, and stays with them all the way through.

"Jakob Nielsen, of course, has been gathering devotees to his cause of Web usability for several years. But Nielsen, rational as he always is, speaks from outside the designers' circle. Fleming, a practicing design consultant, takes the Nielsen ideas (and others) and turns them into a full-fledged design process, a toolbox for building sites.

"Among the best of Fleming's tools is the 'user profile', the half-imaginary story about a specific user arriving at a site with particular needs, desires and concerns. You can see this slice of the book excerpted at The technique lets you think creatively about all the different frustrations of different user groups - problems with graphics, problems with information design, problems with underlying business processes.

"Then there's Fleming's succinct yet detailed description of Digital Knowledge Assets' 'ethnographic' methods - such as asking users for stories of satisfying Web experiences, and even giving them disposable cameras to photograph what happens to them as they work.

"To her user profiling, ethnographics and the like, Fleming adds a rich mix of more traditional Web project techniques - scenario planning, brainstorming, conventional usability testing and the like, all well-described. And over the top she sprinkles wisdom from scores of sources - from vintage design sources such as Edward Tufte through so-cool designers like Clement Mok and Erik Spiekermann to obscure sources such as a 1996 volume arguing that people expect computer-based media to behave 'politely'. Parts of Web Navigation are respectful journalism, as Fleming effectively picks the brains of the Web business's best. These luminaries' views broaden her book handily into a catalogue of current Web best practice.

"At $A60 or so shipped from, Web Navigation can make user-centred design seem the most natural thing in the world. It won't change the Web design industry single-handed. But it's a clear pointer to 1999's design priorities - and a text whose influence will last well into the next decade."

--David Walker, Lighthouse on the Web:

"Not what I expected. (Better, though.) When I first heard (six months ago) that someone was writing an entire book about web site navigation, I have to admit I was pretty jazzed. After all, web navigation is something I spend several hours a day thinking about, and there's almost nothing useful written about it. (I make my living reviewing web site designs to make sure that human beings stand a chance of being able to use them. It's a great job.) I figured this had to be just the book I was looking for: endless discussions of whether sites should be wide or deep, how many items you can fit on a navigation bar without scaring users off, whether JavaScript rollovers help or hurt, and so on. Lots of diagrams and flow charts.

"So I have to admit that I was more than a little bummed when it finally arrived: it just wasn't the book I was hoping for. (In the interest of full disclosure, while I was waiting I sought Jennifer out to consult on a particularly thorny project of mine. She was very helpful.) But the good news is it only took a few minutes to get over my disappointment. As soon as I started reading, I realized that what she's written is actually a much more interesting book than the one I had in mind, and one that's valuable to a lot more people. Even though the title is "Web Navigation," the subtitle ("Designing the User Experience") is what it's really about. It explains (and shows by example) how to grapple with a much more important issue than what your navigation looks like--namely: figuring out your users' goals-what they hope to accomplish at your site-and then designing an experience that meets those goals. (Hint: navigation's just a part of it.) And since it's broken down into chapters for different types of sites (like entertainment, shopping, community, and so on), you don't even have to read the whole thing--although you'll probably want to. Buy this book and Information Architecture for the World Wide Web and spend a long weekend reading both of them. You'll know what you need to know." from Boston, MA , October 13, 1998, posted on

"Web Navigation introduces the developer/designer to the concept of the user experience, and how the objective of most Web sites is, more likely than not, to provide the user with a positive experience from the first second they arrive to the moment they leave the site. By inducing the designer to put themselves in their user's shoes, Fleming reminds them what it means to visit and navigate a Web site.

Chapters include the Ten Qualities of Successful Navigation, Site architecture, Interface and Interaction Design, and chapters on Navigation Design for Shopping, Community, Entertainment, Identity, Learning and Information Sites. Fleming takes the reader through the initial process of laying the groundwork and then moves on to forming specific goals for the site. Several real-world examples of each type of site are given, providing the reader with details about the merits of each site's navigation system.

At the end of the book is a chapter with many tips and hints for creating a successful navigation system for your site. Tips cover the use of forms, frames, META tags, graphics, image maps and more. A CD-ROM which is included with the book includes hyperlinks to all the sites mentioned in the book, along with software demos and a "netography" of sites with related subject matter.

So should you spend your hard-earned money on Fleming's book? I'll tell you this much: don't ask me to lend you my copy of this'll be parked next to the rest of my classic Web development books, where it will remain unti it it too dog-eared to read. O'Reilly is getting well known for publishing books that become industry standards, and Web Navigation is no exception!" book reviews

"As Web developers seek bold ideas and technical enlightenment by consulting the wide array of design books now on the market, they will find assistance with everything from concept, design and graphics, and HTML coding, to formulate the visible front end of a Web site. Thus it is easy for some designers to overlook the less flashy but critical structural issue of Web navigation.

"But as Web Navigation: Designing the User Experience by Jennifer Fleming demonstrates, that would be a mistake. Navigation, because of the Web's inherent interactivity, is an integral component of Web design, just as important as compelling content and skillful graphics. Functional navigation can make or break an otherwise visually appealing Web site, just as it can make or break a real space location.

"Indeed, the author compares Web space to real spaces like museums and malls, and online habits and expectations to real world experiences such as shopping and learning. The book relates navigation to usability in a transparent fashion, without burdening the reader with a lot of technical jargon and makes it obvious how much of Web design is linked to human behavior and expectations.

"In simple and straightforward prose, Fleming covers major aspects of Web navigation, separating out the concept of navigation through Web space from visual design principles. The book explores navigation as a means to an end, and offers a number of different design solutions. It becomes obvious after reading this book that effective navigation requires a different set of skills than coding and producing visuals.

"Web Navigation concentrates on the act of moving through cyberspace with an emphasis on the viewer's experience and questions the designer must answer in order to meet the goals of both.

"Like many Web site tutorials, Web Navigation arose from the needs and questions of the author as she tried, with varying degrees of difficulty, to get around the Web. Fleming discovered, as did many veteran Web cruisers, that an attractive interface does not always correlate with ease of movement.

"I particularly like the way the author introduces viewer goals and expectations as Tier 1, Tier 2, and Tier 3 questions, which cover general navigation questions, purpose-oriented questions, and topic or audience oriented questions. The author then lists examples of each kind of question. These detailed charts -- simple and specific -- give Web developers a perspective on their own sites. I also liked Chapter 4, Site Architecture, which demonstrates how the relationship between Web site goals and target audiences can determine a viable site architecture, and presents a thorough and illustrated guide on how to construct your site.

"The first six chapters of Web Navigation explore concepts in a general way: They tell you how to get started and introduce the 10 qualities of successful navigation. The author then delves into user-oriented design, site architecture, interface and interaction design, and the process of implementing a successful navigation scheme.

"Chapters 7-12 are category specific, and explore navigation schemes most appropriate for shopping, community, entertainment, identity, learning, and information sites. Each of those chapters contains three examples of Web sites that are 'doing it right.' The tiered questions in these chapters are specific to the type of Web site discussed, but readers would also profit by reading through all the site types for additional user goals and expectation ideas.

"Each chapter also contains a number of greyscale charts and screenshots to illustrate the author's points. There are several interviews with interface design and navigation experts. Text boxes highlight major principles within the chapter and suggest in-depth sources of information in the form of Web sites, books and articles. The book also contains appendices with technical tips, a glossary, a list of Web sites, and a bibliography. An accompanying CD-ROM allows you to access the Web sites mentioned in the book, and contains samples of software you can use to optimize your Web site.

"I highly recommend Web Navigation as an excellent in-depth primer on the principle concepts and execution of Web site navigation. While it is written simply, readers will need a background in Web design to comprehend fully both its major and subtle points."

--Jackie Dove, Web Review copyright(C) 1995-98 Songline Studios, Inc. Web Techniques and Web Design and Development copyright (C) 1998 Miller Freeman, Inc.

"Until recently, most of us thought clean code and pretty graphics were the key to a successful site" - Lynda Weinman

"Web sites have sometimes been described in terms of 'generations'. David Siegel for instance describes how first generation sites were rapidly thrown together with no greater ambition than to get pages of HTML code onto the Web. The second generation added graphics, started to be concerned with page layout [even though HTML code is not designed for that purpose] and often added eye-popping special effects. Third generation sites have brought some of these excesses under control, and are designed to make the user experience more meaningful.

"There's no doubt that clever designers have managed to produce some visually stunning Web pages but the question many 'information architects' are now beginning to ask questions such as 'Can visitors find their way around the site?' and 'Is this site achieving its purpose?' The 'eye candy' effects of animation and flashy graphics often mask both a lack of content and an incoherent maze of links which any discerning visitor is glad to leave quickly via the nearest exit.

"Jennifer Fleming's Web Navigation is a serious and articulate plea for intelligent Web site design, and it is based on principles which owe more to information theory and coherent structure than to the luminous-glamour school of graphics-based design.

"Like most good designers, she insists on a user-centred rather than client-centred approach to web design. What's the difference? you might ask. Well, intelligent designers are now beginning to realise that web sites are often created to impress the commissioning clients, rather than the people who will be using them. Men in suits will applaud spiffy graphics when a new site is revealed at a presentation but they will probably never need to log on again.

"The book's structure reflects the clarity of her purpose. There are six chapters on the foundations of navigation design, then in the second part an analysis of successful sites. There are four appendices: technical tips, a glossary of navigational terms, a list of web resources, and a bibliography. The accompanying CD comes with trial versions of software (including the highly praised Dreamweaver) and it has a marvellous 'netography' with listings of articles, web sites, and online resources covering navigation, usability and testing, organisation of information, information design, document markup and scripting. [I loaded the disk, browsed the sites she recommends, and all the links were working.]

"Her advice is to provide clear, simple, and consistent navigational aids and she offers a particularly strong warning against using metaphors such as the office or the supermarket [though curiously, the CD uses icons]. Navigation that works should:

  • be easily learned

  • remain consistent

  • provide feedback

  • appear in context

  • offer alternatives

  • be economic in action and time

  • provide clear visual messages

  • use clear understandable labels

  • be appropriate to site's purpose

"Now that's an important free lesson for you! She is in favour of any interactivity, such as rollovers ('OnMouseOver') which provide feedback, and is sceptical of the 'Back' button on the grounds that users might enter a site at any page. Where would they be going 'back' to? She also raises other interesting navigational questions, such as 'where will you be when you've finished reading a page, and where will you wish or need to go?'

"She recommends multiple navigational routes and aids, plus guidance. For instance, a site might have a framed and 'no-frames' version, a graphics and no graphics version. It will certainly have navigation hot spots at the top and bottom of every page, maybe a contents list in left-hand frame, plus icons, labels, and anything else which helps users find their way around.

"One of the interesting features of her approach is that she illustrates her argument with detailed reference to the work of other 'information architects' such as Jakob Nielsen, Clement Mok, Edward Tufte, and David Siegel. The reader is thereby presented with a range of approaches to this relatively new subject. There are lots of bibliographic suggestions and URLs in side-bars on the page and those I checked were all up-to-date, which is an important feature in such a fast-changing medium.

"It's a book aimed at professionals. For instance, her descriptions of the site design process assume that there will be teams of designers in sessions at a corporate level using flipcharts, video recordings, and even team-working software. There's lots on brainstorming and chunking in what are now called 'focus groups'. But these principles could be followed by what I suspect is more likely to be the average reader somebody working in a spare room at home.

"This is a book for people who want to take web design seriously. It's significant that she spends so much time discussing the thoughtful planning, research, and testing of a site, rather than the creation of flashy effects and animated gimmicks which adorn so many KEWL sites. She has powerful and revealing arguments in favour of a consistent design process (so that the arbitrary element of success or failure can be removed). This is fairly obvious when you think about it - but that's true of many good ideas.

"She includes a full account of professional designers at work, with pointers to the resources they use such as David Siegel's free downloadable 'profiling' materials at for instance.

"This is the business studies version of web design manuals, packed with thought-provoking information on determining user goals and expectations. She describes the use of personal interviews, people 'shadowing' users throughout the working day, and 'disposable camera studies' where users record what they find interesting. Not many individuals will have the resources to be so thorough, and sometimes the 'feedback-usability-testing' approach makes this all seem like a science rather than the sales-pitch that it is as if we can predict how many people will come to our site to buy widgets.

"In the second half of the book her notions are put to work analysing the navigational methods and structure at sites built for shopping, entertainment, learning, and community services. This struck me as slightly less interesting than the first part, but still worth reading for the revealing tips and guidance notes embedded in her analysis. The observations, as before, are that successful sites are customer-oriented, and that they give extra consideration to online customers because they lack the navigational support provided during comparable user experiences in libraries, airports and shopping malls.

"If there is a weakness in her examinations, it's that these are often not much more than descriptions of sites though they are nevertheless well-illustrated mini-lectures, with plenty of screen captures. For instance, she heaps praise on for their search facility and one-click ordering system. However, this doesn't take into account that the company, despite its multi-million dollar turnover, hasn't actually made a profit so far.

"It's worth noting that a lot of what she says about helping users through the layers of a site is based on the US-centred assumption that people are going to spend a lot of time browsing because they have free local telephone calls. But European (certainly UK) users will not have such luxuries. They'll hit a site, search for what they're looking for, then disconnect quickly. This economically-driven difference in user behaviour should be taken into account by anyone theorising about navigation, browsing, and web design.

"But there are many good tips offered en passant including some which might seem obvious, but which are often ignored by site designers. For instance, I've noticed that in the UK, quangos and government departments are very often reluctant to display their postal address [possibly reflecting the arrogant nature of these organisations]. But she insists that

'Making your street address, phone number, and email address easily available is not only about completing an online sales pitch...It's about other elusive qualities: trust and community.'

"Similarly, many UK universities would do well to heed her advice on making themselves more accessible and well-presented. How many times have you visited a university site and found no lists of courses on offer or staff who teach them? She points to the short-sightedness of this approach:

'A large percentage of visitors to a university site are applicants for admission, or are thinking of becoming applicants...If a university can answer their questions fairly easily, it bodes well for the entire process. A positive experience on the Web especially for college applicants, who tend to make decisions on gut feelings is a powerful factor in decision-making.'

"It's good that she chooses different (and challenging) types of sites to analyse. Searching for information is quite a different matter to being entertained or pushing round a virtual shopping trolley. The section on information sites [Lycos,] is particularly interesting, because she forces us to think about different types of questions which might be asked of a site, and the different approaches to searching users develop.

'Until recently, just providing information via the Web was a laudable pursuit. It was enough to be one of the forward-thinking few who recognised the power of the Web for mass communication. Those days are gone, replaced with a new challenge: providing increasingly complex layers of information, and making it all seem simple.'

"Very near the end of the book she presents a simple formula for successful sites. Aspirant site designers would do themselves a favour by writing her tips on Post-It notes and sticking them on their monitors:

  • keep every page below 20K

  • recycle headers

  • keep graphics small and simple

"Jennifer Fleming has a background in library and information science, and her advice and observations strike me as more seriously well-founded than most of the web design manuals I have ever seen. This is a wonderfully rich and thought-provoking study which anybody analysing or building web sites should put on their list of essential reading."

--(C) Roy Johnson 1998,