Navigation and IA
Navigation is without a doubt one of the most essential elements of any interface, and as a result adequate time and thought is necessary to ensure your interface’s navigation is usable and comprehensive. From the all important global navigation that stays the same throughout the site, to local navigation which changes based on the content of the page, to contextual navigation which exists within the content itself. They all work together to form a powerful navigation experience.
- Information Architecture as an Extension of Web Design — features some good points on navigation and IA.
- Information Architecture Deliverables: Site/Navigation Structure — a good article on conveying your IA suggestions for navigation through deliverables.
- Essential Navigation Checklists for Web Design
- Where Am I? — a fantastic article on improving your navigation by highlighting context within your site’s IA.
Types of Navigation
There are typically a few types of navigation: global, local, contextual/supplemental. Sometimes you may only need one, but other times you may need all three depending on the amount of content and the complexity of the interface. Understanding how and when to use these different types
- Global navigation is a navigation structure that stays consistent through your application to provide familiarity and a good overview of your site’s content.
- Local navigation is a navigation structure contingent on the current content.
- Contextual navigation refers to navigation that is embedded within a site’s content to facilitate further browsing. The best of example of this is Wikipedia which links content together inside the articles.
Hansel and Gretel weren’t the only two who wanted to get back to where they started. Breadcrumbs, when well thought out and implemented in moderation, can add a dynamic and usable element into your interface.
- Location, Path & Attribute Breadcrumbs — an excellent overview of approaches to breadcrumb navigation.
- Breadcrumb Navigation Increasingly Useful — Jakob Nielsen’s analysis of the effectiveness of breadcrumbs.
- Design Cop-out: Breadcrumbs — a very insightful article on the thought necessary to implement breadcrumbs and not using them to “cop-out” of other aspects of IA.
Pagination is often an over-looked aspect of effective navigation architectures. When combined with a thoughtful search architecture it will increase findability drastically.
- Pagination Gallery: Examples And Good Practices — an incredibly rich article outlining common mistakes and best practices.
Navigation Design Patterns
Design patterns are a great way to see how others are starting to standardize the way they approach certain aspects of design and their resulting interactions. Most often, navigation mistakes are made, because the designer doesn’t take into account existing patterns that users may be familiar with.
- Patterns in Interaction Design — here is a great listing of patterns related to navigation styles including accordions, fly-outs, and much more.
- Elements of Design — an interesting gallery of creatively styled navigation.
- Information Architecture models: Guide to web site navigation patterns — an overview of different approaches to modeling the content in a navigation scheme.