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This chapter is from the book

Offer Multiple Routes to the Same Information

Figure 3

Background: 1, 2, 3, many menus

To encourage guests to follow their own trail of association, offer multiple menus leading down to the same low-level items. Reuse the same heading in each of these menus. In an online music site, for example, you might let guests browse menus showing different types of music, new items, imports, customer favorites, and highlighted specials. The same CD—a new rap album that is already popular with customers—might appear at the bottom of several different menu chains.

The more access mechanisms the better.
—Hoffman, Enabling Extremely Rapid Navigation in Your Web or Document

When people come to your site with different purposes, tasks, and mindsets, you can support them by putting the same heading in multiple menus. In a way, these menus offer different perspectives on your content. Following separate branches of your hierarchy, users converge on a single node, so write the heading and text so they appear to belong to each branch.

Write nodes in converging branches in a modular style so that they fit the context of both branches. (Farkas and Farkas, 2000)

See Also

Some users come to your page out of desperation, because the heading seemed close to the right topic, even though not exactly right. These guests hope you will point to the right info. For these people for whom your page is close-but-no-cigar, make up shortcut lists and suggestions of See Also links.

Shortcuts minimize the time and effort users spend navigating, allowing users to bypass the site's hierarchy. (IBM, 1999)

Multiple menus, multiple perspectives

Offering several different menus gives people a chance to follow the paths that make sense to them.

Provide different site paths to facilitate different shopping strategies. (IBM, 1999)

In this way, you are also offering people different representations of the information and different ways to think about it, so they can follow the model that comes closest to their current concern.

The more you personalize information, the more menus get made up on the fly, to match a guest's profile.

You need to stop thinking of your Web pages as static files on a server and more like a collection of scripts and intelligent content that can figure out how to display itself correctly. (Veen, 2001)

Examples

Before

After

Binary Stars
Black Holes
Clusters of Galaxies
Colliding Galaxies
Dark Nebulae
Elliptical Galaxies
Emission Nebulae
Galaxies
Individual Stars
Milky Way
Nebulae
Neutron Stars
Nurseries|
Open Clusters
Planetary Nebulae
Reflection Nebulae
Spiral Galaxies
Stars
Sun
Supernova Remnants
White Dwarfs

Stars:

Binary Stars
Black Holes
Individual Stars
Neutron Stars
Nurseries
Open Clusters
Sun
White Dwarfs

Galaxies:

Colliding Galaxies
Elliptical Galaxies
Galaxy Clusters
Milky Way
Spiral Galaxies

Nebulae:

Dark Nebulae
Emission Nebulae
Planetary Nebulae
Reflection Nebulae

Before

After

Two ways to find a music CD:

Browse by genre
Search

10 Ways to find a music CD:

Top 50
New Releases
Advance Orders
Genres
Artists and Groups
Composers
Labels
Gift Ideas
Seasonal Sounds
Search


Audience fit

If visitors want this...

How well does this guideline apply?

To have fun

Multiple menus offer even more fun.

To learn

Yes, you can tailor menus to different learning styles, backgrounds, and interests.

To act

Good, because not everyone conceives of the task in the same way.

To be aware

Everyone is on an individual path, no?

To get close to people

Offering multiple menus is like lending your ear. You're listening to your guests.

See: Bushell (1995), Farkas and Farkas (2000), IBM (1999), NCSA (1996), Veen (2001).


 

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