October 19th, 2005
Marjorie caught me. During my UI10 presentation, The Essence of Scent, I made an offhand comment about how global navigation is “unnecessary and rarely helpful.”
I thought I had gotten away with it.
Apparently not. Today, Marjorie wrote:
During your “The Essence of Scent” presentation on Thursday you said something to the effect that — global navigation is unnecessary and not very helpful. I found that surprising and wondered how people are to get around a site when they are several pages in? This has been an ongoing debate for our site — should we include the left hand global navigation on all pages and if not, when not?
Global navigation (versus local navigation) is often static on the site (meaning that it doesn’t change from one page to the next). We know that most of the time, users come to the site with a specific goal in mind. Maybe they’ll click on the global navigation on the home page (however, probably not, if the page is well designed). Then they’ll never click on it again, because, after all, they are now looking for local information — not global information.
Take the FEMA site, for example.
If you’re coming to the site to see if you qualify for disaster assistance, you might find yourself on this page:
If you’re on this page because it’s the right page, what are the odds you’ll want any of the five links in the global nav?
Disaster Communities | Emergency Personnel | Education & Training | News Media | Regions
The local navigation is probably useful:
So, we could see users clicking on that. But it’s very unlikely someone would ever think to click on Disaster Communities. (Or even bring their mouse up to it to see what the next level of menus are.)
We’ve observed that it’s almost always the case that if a user is clicking on global navigation, it’s because they are completely lost. In fact, many clients report that their most clicked global navigation links are for the page the user is currently on. It seems users keep clicking on the global link hoping it will bring up a less frustrating page. (It doesn’t.)
Having global navigation isn’t a bad thing. It’s just not something that should garner a lot of resources, as it’s unlikely to be important in the user experience. You’re probably better off putting your resources elsewhere (such as increasing scent for the most important content on your site).Tweet