in Web Navigation

The beginning of the end of the page

Mark Hurst warns of a content-centric view in The Page Paradigm, making the point that ‘Web developers often waste time worrying about “where content should live”‘ which is so true. Designers often become hyper-focused on the content and navigation and forget about the user’s goals and the flow they go through to get there (can you say personas and scenarios?). That said, his three-step process of ‘Identify users’ goals on each page… remove any page elements that don’t help to accomplish the goal, and emphasize… elements that… take users closer to their goal… and you’re done‘ is just a wee bit easier said than done. I’m all like, Which tasks will help them accomplish their goals? In what order(s) do the tasks happen? What’s the best interface to accomplish each task? How do you present disparate interfaces in a coherent way? How do the tasks and interfaces differ according to the volume and type of content accessed? And so on. Navigation design can get fairly complicated when taken seriously. Whaddya trying to do, Mark, get my salary cut in half?!

Incidentally, in the long view, I think the page paradigm will go away. It’s an artifact of the earliest HTML spec, and once we have a platform where Flash-like capabilities are widespread we’ll all be doing interaction design (interactions designers will need to learn information architecture and vice versa). We might still think in terms of a current state, as with the currently displayed page, but the increased volatility and potential for richer interaction will be a whole new beast.