The hypertext link in the main text offers access to a more detailed description of the term, and the navigation links move the visitor to another item on the site. It is vital not to confuse navigation with controls. Controls may move the visitor to another page as with a form submission , but it first performs a specific action initiated by the visitor. To iIlustrate this point, I was doing user testing on a Web site that included functionality to send ecards. The link in the menu to navigate to the page to send the card was labeled Send eCard. Navigation or Controls?
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The hypertext link in the main text offers access to a more detailed description of the term, and the navigation links move the visitor to another item on the site. It is vital not to confuse navigation with controls. Controls may move the visitor to another page as with a form submission , but it first performs a specific action initiated by the visitor.
To iIlustrate this point, I was doing user testing on a Web site that included functionality to send ecards. The link in the menu to navigate to the page to send the card was labeled Send eCard. Navigation or Controls? Once on the page, the visitor filled out the information and then clicked a link labeled Send eCard to complete the transaction.
However, the navigation link was still on the page in the menu. I found that visitors often confused the navigation link Send eCard with the control link Send eCard and kept resetting the pageleading to a frustrating experience, The lesson here is to clearly distingwshlinks used for navigation from those being used to give commands. Unfortunately, many designers are still addicted to simply pouring links into a page without giving much thought to how the visitor will interact with them.
If the main navigation is on the left side of the screen, do not suddenly move it to the right on the next screen. If you placed the auxiliary navigation on the bottom of the screen, do not suddenly start placing banner ads in that area.
The best way to keep navigation consistent is to simply fix a menu bar on the site that stays in the same place regardless of which page the visitor is on or where they have scrolled to. There are some exceptions, however. Home pages can have a different navigational layout from the rest of the site, just as the cover of a magazine has a different layout from the pages inside.
Let visitors know where they are and how they got there. Remember Hansel and Gretel following their pebbles back home from the woods? Marking your path can keep you from getting lost and help you find your way back to where you started. Visitors who are new to a site, however, may not understand some of the vague terms you use to describe the navigation. This frustration is compounded by having to wait to load pages that were not what they really wanted.
Providing a sentence or two of explanation to tell visitors what they can expect to find behind the link helps lessen this problem. You may not have the screen space to provide a thorough explanation, but DHTML can come in handy for this, providing pop-ups, rollovers, and other methods for dynamically showing content. Not everyone works the same way. Most software these days allows users to move control palettes around on the screen, add and subtract tools, and generally tailor the interface to their needs.
The Web limits what you can do to give visitors control of the interface, but I like to offer a few things such as pull-out and collapsible menus in a panel. Any link on a page that visitors are not interested in clicking is wasted space on the screen. Yet many Web designers fill the pages of their sites with links that visitors did not click on the home page and are unlikely to click at all. Consider a banking site that offers services to individuals,small businesses, and corporations.
The front page presents all three options as starting points that take visitors to the diverse services available in each category. But links to all three areas remain on subsequent pages.
Why would someone who is interested in an individual banking account want to switch over to the corporate services? Even in this rare case, that person could always return to the home page, which should never be more than a click away. One common way of giving visitors the maximum number of links without wasting space is to use drop-down or clamshell menus, which allow you to organize your links into main topics listed in a single menu.
When one of the topics is selected, a submenu of related topics appears below the main topic, but the full menu of topics is still available. Imagine that you are typing a letter in your word processor. As you reach the bottom of the typing area, the menu bar scrolls off the top of the screen. Every time you need to access the menu bar, you have to scroll back up to the top of the page. Give visitors somewhere to go next. Recently, I was reading an article in a popular Web magazine for information architects.
When I reached the end of the article, I found that I could go backward and forward through the pages of the article, but there was no link back to the actual magazine or to any other part of the site. There is nothing more irritating on a Web site than a dead end. This situation occurs with alarming regularity when you fill out forms online: You enter all your information and click Submit; a page comes up with a message thanking you for entering your information, and nothing more happens.
I prefer to put my navigation in frames so that it is always available and in a consistent position on the screen. Visitors do not have to monkey around searching the page and wasting their valuable time. It is important, of course, to minimize the size of these frames to maximize the area available for the content. Not all navigation is created equal. Web pages can contain many types of navigation, depending on a variety of factors.
Visitors use the main navigation to travel among the most important areas of the site. Many visitors depend on the built-in browser controls.
They are comfortable with the way these controls work, and they know what to expect when they click the Back or Forward button. Make sure visitors can always get back to where they were in your Web site with a minimum of fuss. Instead, give them options or at least include a link back to the page they just came from. One of the most common mistakes that Web designers make is placing every possible link on every page of the site, in the mistaken belief that visitors may want to go anywhere at any time.
Any link that visitors never click is wasted space. If visitors did not select the link on the home page of the site, the chance that they will click it on subsequent pages goes way down. This is not to say that visitors always follow a linear path through the site to their goal;you can expect visitors to skip around looking for what they want. But you should organize the site so that visitors can move among subjects quickly and then move to more-detailedsubjects without having to see all the detailed links at the same time.
What Is the Web Good For? In practice, includinginfinite information is not feasible, but you can include a great deal of information for the visitor to explore. Authors the ones who provide the content control what is and what is not referenced through a hypertext link and they have to consider everylink they create. Rather than being a medium for discoursesuch as a book, through which one person speaks to many people-the best Web sites use the Web as a m d u m for intercourse no, Usingthe Web, many people can from and speak to one another.
G u m wise, what is the point of the Web? Conversation, video, audio, and text can all be provided on the Web but can be provided better via telephone, TV, radio, and magazines. Dynamic by Design People probably are not coming to your Web site to see cool special effects; they are coming to your site for information.
Your design, dynamic or not, needs to support their information needs. A dynamic Web site, if properly designed, is always better than a static one as it can provide the visitor with greater versatility. However, a poorly designed Web site with dynamic elements can simply be painful to use. For many people, dynamic content means added complexity-more options, more functions, more to learn, and more to remember.
Generally speaking, people do not want more options; they want what they want when they want it. You should use dynamic features to simplify the use of your site, not to add complexity. Information becomes knowledge when its relevance is understood. But information that is not immediately relevant can be distracting, and too much information can be just as confusing as too little.
We often do not notice changes in our environment, even when they occur right in front of our faces. Dynamic changes in the content of a Web page should be initiated by the visitor, should occur almost instantly, and should be easy to recognize.
Compared with the real world, where we can turn to see where we came from and look ahead to see what is next, most Web pages seem to be very insular. The point of a Web site is to allow visitors to move freely within the content.
As the author and designer, you want to direct visitors to the information you want them to see but simultaneously allow them to follow their own paths. In terms of what you are communicating to your audience, the links that you do or do not include in a Web page are as important as the words and graphics you put there.
Think of yourself as a guide, not a tyrant. This plan works as a blueprint for the site, to help you define the structure around which all the fixtures of the site graphics, text, and code will be placed. A large Web site built without the benefit of a blueprint will fail as surely as a large building built without the benefit of an architectural blueprint. But even if you are building only a garden-shed-size Web site, a good plan will save you time and aggravation in the long run.
Including dynamic content in this equation makes a good plan even more necessary. Because dynamic content adds more options, it adds more possibilities and more variables that can go wrong. A little forethought can go a long way. Figure 1. Step 1: Define amarl? Designing a dynamic Web site requires a good deal more effort than simply stringing together a series of Web pages with links, but the rewards will he worth it.
Collect and review your content This step may seem obvious, but you would be surprised how many sites begin their lives before the designers know what is going into them. How will visitors navigate all the information you present? How can similar chunks of information be grouped to create the different sections of the Web site? What should those sections be called, and how should they be represented?
This decision will play an important role when you map out the site and determine its structure. The answer to this question will determine a lot about the final design. This is an important consideration with a dynamic Web site, since you need to start thinking now about the best ways to present that content. Know your audience The type of content will determine the type of visitor who wants to view it.
This may be the most important factor in determining a demographic for your site visitors. The more accurately you can define the content, the more accurately you can define the audience. What type of browser is the visitor using?
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