By Matt Cook
Point Click Media
The following is Part 4 of our series on transitioning your business materials to the web. To review the past articles visit the following links:
Dealing with Navigation
Navigation in printed media is fairly simple. You flip to the table of contents, find out where you want to go and flip pages again until you get there. A table of contents is essentially one big listing of everything held within the material you’re holding or reading. Although websites can have these types of listings as well (commonly called site maps), navigating through a website can become much more complex than simply clicking a link or flipping a page.
First, let’s look at how a book is typically structured. The contents of a book are usually sliced up into chapters and can often be divided up even more into sub-sections of each chapter. Chapters can go on for several pages at a time. This is where a table of contents comes in handy to find out where your desired information is located. On the web, that same chapter or section of information can be placed on one single page and be structured with the same sub-sections without the user having to flip pages continuously. Just visit any page on Wikipedia for a perfect example.
Navigation on the web is also about convenience. While when reading a novel you must return to the index or table of contents each time you want to find a new piece of information, a website typically has built-in navigation on every page so that a user can get where they are going in one click or minimal clicks. Web navigation can be quite elaborate with several drop-down menus or interactivity with animations and rollover effects. Your navigation is an extremely important piece of your website. The average website visitor doesn’t have the patience to search meticulously through an index of pages to find a piece of information, so your navigation needs to be prominent and easy to use.
The idea behind a table of contents is the same in print and web, but they are presented in very different ways. When transitioning your printed materials to the web be sure to plan your navigation properly and structure your content in a way that adapts itself to being found quickly and easily. You don’t want your users sifting through a menu of 1,000 links to find what they want.
In the final segment of this series, we’ll examine the consequences of going overboard with your website.