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Building Social Web Applications by Gavin Bell

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Chapter 13. Organizing Your Site for Navigation, Search, and Activity

Social applications create extra challenges for navigation design, as each person using the site has a unique personal view of the content. Within that unique context, you need to help people understand how information is arranged on your site so that they can find relevant people and content.

Three key pages usually vie to be regarded as the home page. These include the personal home page, which usually shows the member’s recent updates to the site and those from friends. Then there is the more traditional home page for non-members. (Chapter 18 has several examples of these and discusses which style might be appropriate for your audience.) Finally, some sites need a non-personalized home page that allows the site owners to announce new features and content. The addition of tags and people acting as links also changes the overall navigational structure for a social application.

Once you let people inhabit your site, they need a different type of navigation from the classic lefthand navigation area pointing them to the content section. Your site has become less like a book and is less linear; you have an application that houses content, people, and tools and people move around within this new space in different and very personal ways. It is also not like a shop or product site. People will have a long-term engagement with the site (we hope), whereas shops are focused on making things easy to find and purchase and ...

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