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Navigation Design

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The focus of good navigation design is organization, not graphics. In this article, authors Robin Williams and John Tollett provide some basic rules and examples to help you become a better interface designer.

From Chapter 7 of "The Non-Designer's Web Book, 2nd Edition", by Robin Williams and John Tollett.

If you can easily find your way around a site and find your way back to the home page at any time from any page, the navigation is well designed. On the other hand, if the web site you've visited is vague in its presentation and organization of content and you get lost in the site, the navigation is poorly designed.

The focus of good navigation design is organization, not graphics. Although creative graphics can add to the aesthetic value of the navigation, your primary goal is to make it easy for visitors to find their way to and from any part of the site you design.

As you explore the web, notice the different styles and techniques used for navigating pages-some sites use simple text links, while others use graphical icons. These icons can be simple buttons with words on them or they can be custom illustrations. While the navigation system is a design opportunity for you to have fun with and an opportunity to use your skills to make the site visually interesting, your primary consideration is to ensure that navigating the site is easy and enjoyable. Whatever style you choose, "clear" and "simple" should be your goals.

Sometimes designers abandon the best solution-the most obvious one- simply because it is obvious and they want to be clever and original. Remember, in your quest to be creative and original, the most obvious solution is sometimes the best. Don't trade clear communication for unclear cleverness. While you're thinking how clever you are, most of us are thinking, "Huh?"

Occasionally we find a site whose designer proudly presents us with a "new" type of navigation with directions on how to use it. We don't want to stifle anyone's creativity, but clear and simple are still the best ways to make friends and win customers-if you have to explain how to use your navigation system, it's wrong.

The Home Sweet Home Page web site (see Figure 1) is focused on beginners so the initial design decision was to have a fun, friendly, and casual look. This, along with the title of the site, brought us to the obvious solution: a casual cartoon of a home and neighborhood with different sections of the home representing the sections of the site.

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