Chapter 7. Navigation Systems

Just wait, Gretel, until the moon rises, and then we shall see the crumbs of bread which I have strewn about; they will show us our way home again.

Hansel and Gretel

As our fairy tales suggest, getting lost is a bad thing. It is associated with confusion, frustration, anger, and fear. In response to this danger, humans have developed navigation tools to prevent us from getting lost and to help us find our way home. From bread crumbs to compass and astrolabe, to maps, street signs, and global positioning systems, people have demonstrated great ingenuity in the design and use of navigation tools and wayfinding strategies.

We use these tools to chart our course, to determine our position, and to find our way back. They provide a sense of context and comfort as we explore new places. Anyone who has driven through an unfamiliar city as darkness falls understands the importance these tools and strategies play in our lives.

On the Web, navigation is rarely a life or death issue. However, getting lost in a large web site can be confusing and frustrating. While a well-designed taxonomy may reduce the chances that users will become lost, complementary navigation tools are often needed to provide context and to allow for greater flexibility. Structure and organization are about building rooms. Navigation design is about adding doors and windows.

In this book, we have split navigation and searching into individual chapters. This chapter focuses on navigation systems ...

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