A New Way to Navigate Web Pages (Maybe)

Two hurdles web designers face when designing web sites are how to setup the information architecture and from there, create easy to understand navigation. Hopefully, an easy to understand navigation scheme also means easy to use. But, should we really have to THINK about navigation?

I don’t want to. I want to be able to scan words that tell me where I am, where to go, what happens when I get there, and why I should take a few extra seconds out of my day to follow a link to a new page. I appreciate not getting the run around, going in circles, getting lost, finding dead ends and not having to put in much brain effort. A web site’s job is to make my experience there pleasurable and fruitful.

So, a web site like Cooper.com is a total mystery to me. Rather than clicking navigation to new pages, a link simply takes site visitors to a different area of the same page. This design is stunning, especially when you consider that the folks at Cooper are leaders in web design usability. Take a look:

Here is the homepage:

Click to Enlarge

You get a hint on the right side that maybe you need to do something there. I dislike being forced to mouse over page elements to figure out what the page wants me to do. Their homepage has traditional navigation link labels and content falling off to the right side that I had to THINK about how to get to.

Here is what happens when I click into that right side content area:

Click to Enlarge

The content shifts to the center, the homepage content moves to the left and new content appears to the right. There is no jumping to a new page. Whether you move from left to right, or click on one of the global navigation links, you are taken to a different area of one page.

It’s kind of interesting. It reminds me of online magazines with pages that “turn”.

Search Engines, Accessibility and More Opinion

I haven’t researched how search engines might handle this type of site navigation. For starters, SEO promotes the approach of many web pages, optimized for specific keywords. What about PPC landing pages? Can a site like this be crawled or is bound up with scripts?

For special needs users, this type of interaction between user and web page may be a blessing. Scrolling is a bit easier to do with a hand that tremors than a constant hunt and click approach. My accessibility friends may have more to say about this. (I hope so!)

Of course, from a usability perspective, one can imagine many reasons why we may not be ready to leave our present navigation design habits. For more information and opinions, read Why Do We Need Navigation At All?

Regardless of how you organize the content, the larger point is this: giving users a table of contents does much more than simply provide users with a means of navigating the content. The table of contents expresses the hierarchical relationships of your content, and by so doing gives users a sense of your content’s overall story and structure. Even if users can’t find the answer to their question by navigating the table of contents, they can find other meaning in browsing and perusing the structure of your content.

What do you think? Are you up for a change in the way we navigate web sites?

What if you never had to leave the homepage to use a web site?

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