The final variable in the analysis equation is also the most important: the user. Navigation design is really about predicting the types of questions people will have when they come to your site, then matching the navigation to user expectations. But as with any prediction, there is the risk of being wrong. User intelligence is the practice of understanding how people use your site in order to reduce this risk.
Keep in mind that the outcome of user intelligence doesn't replace your judgment—it informs your judgment. User research does not mean "do what users say." Instead, it's about detaching yourself from your own perspective and focusing on user goals. In the end, your intuition is still very important to the design process.
User intelligence generally requires a range of techniques, including:
Reviewing secondary literature on a given topic or in a given field
Analyzing existing user data
Performing primary user research
There is no silver bullet. User intelligence activities are part of an ongoing design process. Figure 7-4 shows an approximate timeline for how activities described in this chapter (as well as in other chapters) can be usedto complement one another. Realistically, you may only perform a few of these on a given project, and the order may be different than suggested here.
Figure 7-4. An approximate timeline for user intelligence activities