When you’re creating a site, your job is to get rid of the question marks. Users look at a page that doesn’t make them think, thus there are the thought balloons over their head with positive signs. When they’re looking at a page that makes them think, all the thought balloons have question marks in them.
If you want to design effective Web pages, remember users don’t read pages, they scan them because they’re usually in a hurry; they know they don’t need to read everything; they’ve been scanning newspapers, magazines, and books all their lives to find the parts they’re interested in, and they know that it works.
Break up pages into clearly defined areas; it allows users to decide quickly which areas of the page to focus on and which areas they can safely ignore. Users decide very quickly which parts of the page have useful information and then almost never look at the other parts—almost as though they weren’t there.
The largest part people do on the Web is to look for the next thing to click, it’s important to make it obvious what’s clickable and what’s not. When you force users to think about something that should be mindless, you’re squandering the limited reservoir of patience and goodwill that each user brings to a new site.
“Number of clicks to get anywhere” seems like a useful criteria. But over time you will see that what really counts is not the number of clicks it takes users to get to what they want but how hard each click is—the amount of thought required, and the amount of uncertainty about whether they’re making the right choice.
Looking for things on a Web site and in the “real” world have many similarities. The difference is that on a Web site there’s no one standing around who can tell you where things are. The Web equivalent of asking directions is searching—typing a description of what you’re looking for in a search box.
Two of the purposes of navigation are fairly obvious: to help us find whatever it is we’re looking for, and to tell us where we are and. But equally important what’s here. Also it tells us how to use the site. It gives us confidence in the people who built it. We always think: “Do these guys know what they’re doing?”
Web designers use the term persistent navigation (or global navigation) to describe navigation elements that appear on every page of a site. Just having the navigation appear in the same place on every page with a consistent look gives you instant confirmation that you’re still in the same site what is very important.
On pages where a form needs to be filled in, the persistent navigation can be a waste distraction. For instance, when you’re paying for your purchases on an e-commerce site you want only to finish filling in the forms. The same when you’re registering, giving feedback, or checking off personalization preferences.
Given the potential power of searching and the number of people who prefer searching to browsing, unless a site is very small and very well organized, every page should have either a search box or a link to a search page. And unless there’s very little reason to search your site, it should be a search box.
Avoid instructions. If you stick to the formula, anyone who has used the Web for more than a few days will know what to do. Adding “Type a keyword” is like saying, “Leave a message at the beep” on your answering machine message: There was a time when it was necessary, but now it just makes you sound clueless.
Avoid options. If there is any possibility of confusion about the scope of the search (what’s being searched: the site or the whole Web; by all means, spell it out. But think very carefully before giving options to limit the scope and providing options for how I specify what I’m searching for (author, or product name).
Page names are the street signs of the Web. Just as with street signs, when thingsare going well users may not notice page names at all. But as soon as they start to sense that they may not be headed in the right direction, they need to be able to spot the page name effortlessly so they can get their bearings.