Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Left-hand navigation

James Robertson has written a post that asks 'Is left-hand navigation evil?'

In practice, however, the poor use of the left-hand sidebar keeps coming up
as one of the major usability issues on intranets. Even when completely
redesigning sites, the ad-hoc use of the sidebar seems to creep back in even
before all the content has been migrated, lessening (or even entirely
eliminating) many of the intended benefits of the redesign.

James poses a good question and his points are really valid. This one is key:

The issue is not with the design of the left-hand navigation, but how it's used.
In particular, how it ends up being used in a decentralised authoring
environment for a large and organically-growing intranet.

I agree with this but as left-hand navigation is a tried and true web standard poor use of it is a symtom of poor decentralised control over IA. Thus the decentralisation of IA needs to be looked at first before what I would see as a radical depature from convention (for sites that have always used it anyway).

In my experience left-hand navigation within CMS sites gets messy very quickly. To alleviate this a few things need to be considered:

  • decentralise content not IA
  • make templates and guidelines stronger in terms of navigation
  • educate around good IA
  • provide in-page navigation within sections and leave the left hand nav as an 'overall structure' navigation only. This allows users to keep focused on the content without moving around too much for next steps. This also provides a bit of flexibility when the left nav does get over-extended.

Labels: ,

2 Comments:

At 2:36 PM, Blogger MikeE said...

Hi Nick, I should really be calling you, but busy going through all your posts before hand! that way I've got something to work from

As a user of *way* too many websites, both at work and home (I'm talking online vs internal). I *hate* with a passion sites that use the left hand side of a site for navigation, purely becuase I'm right handed.

I'll read from left to right, so thats where I want my content to be, so I'm not distracted by the menu. But my mouse pointer tends to live on the R/H side of the screen. So thats here I tend to expect the navigation to be. Hence why my blog, and anything else I'm involved with uses the right hand side for navigation.

 
At 2:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mikee

In response to: "But my mouse pointer tends to live on the R/H side of the screen. So thats here I tend to expect the navigation to be. Hence why my blog, and anything else I'm involved with uses the right hand side for navigation"

You're obviously forgetting the 10% of us whose mouse pointer has a natural bias towards the left of the screen :)

 

Post a Comment

<< Home