|InfoVis.net>Magazine>message nº 32||Published 2001-03-05|
|También disponible en Español|
The digital magazine of InfoVis.net
One of the first things that we forget is that some of the most important navigation elements aren't in our web, but in the browser. The Back and Forward buttons, the History and the bookmarks stored in the browser and the colours of the visited and non-visited links are common elements to most of the browsers. Corrupting or modifying these navigation standards is much more frequent than it would be desirable.
A typical case: changing the colours of the visited and non-visited links. If the selection is not very obvious and consistent, the user can be confused about which ones are the visited and which ones the non-visited.
As an example, Garden.com. The links to secondary pages have the same grey colour as the rest of the text; they aren't underlined and they change to red only when you hover over them. Once you have visited the links and come back they switch to purple…only to switch back to grey as soon as you click elsewhere on the screen.
In other cases the main page is written in Flash. In these cases the Back button no longer works if you are in this page. You can take a look to Eyetracking.com in order to have this experience. Once in the main page, it doesn't matter how many web sites you visited before; you can click on the back button for ever with one single result, the Flash presentation reinitializes.
Inappropriate use of frames has also the potential effect of creating navigation problems. This occurs especially due to the fact that when bookmarking it isn't clear which of the frame's URL we are storing. In general, frames tend to confuse the user because they subvert the concept of page, which is the base of the current web paradigm, which the Internauts are very used to.
There is much more literature regarding what happens on the other side of the browser, in the field of the navigational elements provided by the web sites. A commendable list of articles on web navigation is the one offered by Usable Web. Jakob Nielsen has also an Alertbox devoted to Navigation: "Is Navigation useful?" . We can also find information on the topic in Webreview using the search engine with the word "navigation" in order to find the list of related articles.
A particularly interesting article due to its clarity is "Seven steps To Easier Web Navigation" by Constance Petersen.
In brief, the basic ideas that this article proposes are
This advice is just common sense, and its application is not very difficult. Nevertheless, more frequently than it ought to be, the ease of use and navigation is not taken into account for the sake of differentiation and originality. In the next article we'll continue talking about how to build a user hostile web.
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