HTML and CSS Reference
WEB NAVIGATION CONCEPTS
When thinking about navigation, Web designers consider
Interface design: Jennifer Tidwell best describes interface design for the Web in her
topic Designing Interfaces . Many of the processes and patterns that Tidwell discusses are
covered in this chapter as well, but with nowhere near the depth and scope as Tidwell
does, so if you want more information on this subject, be sure to check out her topic.
Information design: In a far broader topic, information design, Edward Tut e has shown
how dif erent kinds of information can be presented so that it's best understood. Of
special interest to Web navigation design is the notion that information is the interface.
In other words, navigation is information arranged so that users can i nd what they want.
Neither Tidwell's nor Tut e's concepts can be summarized in a tidy dei nition. h e idea of
interaction is one of responding to another action, such as two people having a discussion.
h at's social interaction and it's something we do all the time — including interaction
mediated by the computer, such as text chats. h e same concept applies to treating a Web page
as a stand-in for another person. h e user does something, and the Web page responds from a
i nite set of choices created by the designer. h e better the job that the designer does, the more
natural it feels to the user. Trying to create an environment of comfortable interaction is the
goal of good interaction design.
DESIGNER NAVIGATION AND USER NAVIGATION
Navigation design contains an almost limitless number of possibilities, and you want to set up
your navigation so that users easily can get around. h e i rst thing to ask yourself is, “Who is
the typical user?” h en, say to yourself, “It ain't me, babe.” If you remember the title to that old
Bob Dylan song, you'll be on the right track. Jennifer Tidwell points out that a maxim in
interface design is, “Know thy users, for they are not you!” Two corollaries can be added to
h e better the designer, the more likely the interface will be bad.
Excellent developers almost always make bad interfaces.
So, if you aspire to be either a great designer or a developer, you're likely to make a bad
interface unless you pay attention. Here's why: Great designers focus on how the page looks,
not on the users' ability to navigate a site. Designers want to display their creativity, and that's
a good thing. However, when that creativity is such that users can't navigate from one page to
another, there's a problem.
One of the worst user interfaces ever devised was on New York's Museum of Modern Art
(MoMA) site. h e navigation was based around a stack of cubes with no labels. Users were
supposed to place their mouse over each cube and a label would appear with the name of the