Every time you add navigation options you add confusion and complexity. Too much choice is the bane of web navigation.I just got a new satellite navigation system for my car. Last weekend I was driving from Dublin to Galway. "Hi, I'm Navvy your friendly new navigation assistant." "Hello Navvy" "Where would you like to go?" "Galway." "Great. Let's go." Sometime later … "Are you enjoying your trip?" "Yes, Navvy. Thanks for asking." "Just to let you know, there's a turn up ahead for Donegal." "Hmm?" "Oh, I just thought you might possibly change your mind about Galway. Donegal is such a lovely place, and there's some great deals on hotels there right now. Would you like to hear about them?" "No." "Okay." Sometime later … "It's me again." "Yeah?" "How about Kerry? There's a turn up ahead." "I don't want to go to Kerry." "Will I just leave the option on the screen in case you change your mind?" "No." "What if you don't like Galway?" Sometime later … "Do you need to know how to get back to Dublin?" "I'm not even in Galway yet. Why on earth would I need to know how to get back to Dublin?" "Just thought you might be interested." "Well, I'm not." "Would you like me to show you all the possible places you could go to from here? It's still not too late not to go to Galway, you know. Or I could show you … Please, please don't turn me …" Navvy the Navigator would not get a job on a car navigation system. When we're driving we just want to see what's ahead of us; where we're going. The Web is no different. We read website navigation like we read a car navigation system. We're looking for that exact link (next turn) we need to click on. We have a destination in mind and we want to get there as quickly as possible. The worst possible thing you can do to a navigation system is clutter it. The worst form of clutter is a series of options that look the same. And where are these mistakes constantly made? In the left column navigation. The left column navigation should point forward; drive you towards your destination. The BBC website is a really great design. When you get to the homepage, you get two major options: News and Sport. Clicking on Sport gets you to a left column navigation beginning with: Football, Cricket, Rugby Union, etc. (Notice it is not alphabetical; it begins with the most popular, Football.) Clicking on Football removes all the other Sport options and shows you just Football ones. What if someone is interested in Cricket? If I was interested in Cricket I'd have clicked on cricket. You keep clicking until you select, say, Manchester United. In the left navigation you now see links such as Squad Selector, Results, Fixtures, etc. The worst navigation systems would continue to offer you Cricket in the left navigation. Of course, that would result in a huge list of links in the left navigation that would cause great confusion. If I want to go to Galway I want to go to Galway. The job of navigation is to help me get to Galway in the fastest, easiest way possible.

About the Author

Gerry McGovern, a content management author and consultant, has spoken, written and consulted extensively on writing for the web and web content management issues since 1994.