in Web Navigation

Structuritis

Inflammation is the root cause of many “-itis” diseases. Similarly, we have places where structural design elements become inflamed and painful.

In a meeting yesterday I used to the term “landing page-itis” to describe the situation where a website landing page makes sense in one category so landing pages are added in all categories. What follows is an exercise of figuring out what kind of information will go on the new landing pages. To let the structure drive what is created is backwards; in user-centered design it’s the audience’s need that should drive the structure and the information created. If the structure becomes inconsistent or lopsided, then the whole structure should be revisited to see if it’s working.

The same thing happens with headers (headeritis). We may start a list without headers:

  • Telephone
  • Flower
  • Pencil

Then add items that require a sub-group, with a header for the sub-group:

  • Telephone
  • Flower
  • Pencil
  • Colors

  • Red
  • Blue
  • Green

Which then compels us to make up headers for everything:

    Other Stuff

  • Telephone
  • Flower
  • Pencil
  • Colors

  • Red
  • Blue
  • Green

The extra headers aren’t really useful, but we put them in for consistency, rather than admitting the structure might not work and fixing it.

  1. The chief problem with allowing structure to emerge is the comfort level with emergent thinking. In social media there are expressions such as tags and ties, as if the tethered world brings us a greater connection. This is the common frame of mind and those who are open minded are adaptive, but not everyone is adaptive.

    Our brains too look for missing structure, and we are programmed to fill in the blanks, otherwise optical illusions such as hybrid images would be processed as direct structure.

    I do think it is intelligent to question the addition of extra elements that are not required and removing the unnecessary level of design does lead to better form, but this has to be balanced with who the audience or customer is.

    I totally agree that in terms of product development the opportunities exist at the front end and time should be devoted to that. I don’t have that much experience in terms of how that applies to web design but I do know that product development processes do improve when we question these assumptions and even in some cases fixed views or judgments. Indeed my own writing process online attempts to learn from this in an emergent fashion.

    M.

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