Chapter 3. Getting Around: Navigation, Signposts, and Wayfinding

The patterns in this chapter deal with the challenges of navigation: How do users know where they are now? Where can they or should they go next? How can they get there from here?

To answer these questions, we look at these important aspects of navigation:

  • The purpose of navigation in user experience (UX)

  • Methods to promote wayfinding in your software

  • Different types of navigation

  • How to design navigation

  • Patterns of navigation that can be useful

Navigation can be challenging because moving around in a website or application is like commuting: you need to do it to get where you want to go, but it’s dull, it’s sometimes infuriating, and the time and energy you spend on it just seems wasted. Couldn’t you be doing something better with your time, such as playing a game or getting some actual work done?

The best kind of commuting is none at all. Having everything you need right at your fingertips without having to travel somewhere is pretty convenient. Likewise, keeping most tools “within reach” on an interface is handy, especially for intermediate-to-expert users (i.e., people who have already learned where everything is). Sometimes, you do need to put lesser-used tools on separate screens where they don’t clutter things up; sometimes, you need to group content onto different pages so that the interface makes sense. All of this is fine as long as the “distances” that a user must travel remain short. So, ...

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