“A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.”
A common goal in navigation design is to create effortless interaction with information. Navigation should be “invisible” to the user. Measuring its effectiveness is therefore problematic: it’s difficult to demonstrate the value of something that’s at its best when you don’t notice it.
At the same time, navigation is deceptively complex. The thousands of pages you’ve provided access to, the numerous relationships you’ve established between different pieces of content, and the smooth interaction detailed in countless flowcharts all get reduced to a handful of links. The navigation on any one page is just a small portion of a larger system, which is sometimes hard to grasp.
What’s more, many variables—from technical performance to graphic design—potentially affect the success of navigation. Showing cause and effect is sometimes difficult. For example, if visitors don’t use a navigation option that could potentially help them, is it because they didn’t see it or because they didn’t understand the label? Making that option bigger won’t help if the label is wrong.
Ultimately, the success of navigation is relative: what’s good for one site might be catastrophic for another. Nonetheless, there are overarching guidelines that hold true across most situations. This chapter reviews them and introduces methods for evaluating whether your site hits the mark.
The following ...