In August 2007 my first book appeared: Designing Web Navigation (O’Reilly, 2007).

Designing Web Navigaiton Cover

Since then it has been translated into six different languages:

The table of contents, index, and a sample chapter are available from the O’Reilly page for the book.

Also see the books referenced in Design Web Navigation over at LibraryThing, in case your interested in the material that influenced my thinking to a large degree.

Here’s part of the preface for more on the book itself:
In 1998, the dotcom boom was in full swing, bringing with it an extreme amount of activity in web development. In that same year we saw the appearance of Jennifer Fleming’s Web Navigation: Designing the User Experience, the predecessor to this book. With certainty and clarity, she demonstrated techniques for creating successful web navigation that focused on users. This was a sober and welcomed contrast to the hype of the time, and it influenced my own thinking.

A lot has changed since 1998. The web has become commonplace. Reading news, hunting for a job, shopping for gifts, looking up telephone numbers, ordering pizza, planning trips, and selling items are just some of the activities that many people do solely on the web. The notion of Web 2.0 marks a second phase of the web characterized by user-generated content, collaboration, communities, and broader participation in general. And new technologies, such as Ajax and Flex, point to a more interactive web with highly functional applications.

Amidst all of this change, the basic problems of creating a good web navigation system remain. In many respects, they only get even more complicated. Business objectives increasingly rely on the assumption that people will be able to find, access, and use the information and services they provide. In other words, in order for web sites to successful, people must be able to navigate effectively. A “cool” site with lots of interactivity and user participation will still be lousy if the navigation doesn’t work.

Designing Web Navigation offers a fresh look at a fundamental topic of web site development: navigation design. In its pages you’ll find insight and practical advice for approaching a range of navigation design problems. Though inspired by Fleming’s Web Navigation, this book explores topics not found in the original, and it has been completely rewritten.

Scope of The Book

Web navigation design touches most other aspects of web site development in some way. Defining where it begins and ends is difficult. This book therefore situates navigation design in a broader context of site development, at times overlapping with other disciplines and concerns. But as much as possible the focus throughout remains clearly on creating an effective navigation system.

My intent is to provide you with some of the primary tools of navigation design and ways to solve navigation problems. Relevant theory and related material are discussed and credited where appropriate. Each chapter ends with suggested reading and a set of questions to the reader. The questions are not meant quiz you on the chapter contents, but to offer some exercises to experience concepts in action. They may also require you to do some investigative research on your own. Use them as a springboard into further exploration of related topics.

The focus of this book is on creating navigation systems for large, information-rich sites serving a business purpose. At times, it also assumes you are working in a large project team with diverse roles. Don’t be daunted, however; the principles and techniques in the book can apply to small sites with small teams, too. Navigation design is ultimately about the thought processes and steps in designing navigation in general, regardless of the site type, size of the team, and your overall objectives in creating a site.

What this book is not about:

  • This book is not about rules. The recommendations made in this book are not to be taken as absolute truths.
  • This book is not about search. hough related to web navigation, this book doesn’t get into issues of search systems. Chapter 11 offers some insight into how search and browse mechanisms can be integrated, but even there the focus is on navigation.
  • This book is not about programming or implementation. There are no examples of code or how to implement a navigation system, but instead I focus on the conception and definition of navigation systems.

Audience

Essentially anyone involved in web site development can benefit from Designing Web Navigation, including managers and other non-designers. Specifically, this book is intended for people new to the field of web design and students who want to learn more about the topic. I hope that experts may get a fresh look at the perennial problem of web navigation as well.

Organization of The Book

Part 1: Foundations of Web Navigation
Designing Web Navigation begins by introducing two basic areas of navigation design that you should understand before starting a project: human information behavior and web navigation elements. How do we navigate on the web? How do we find information in general? Understanding these broader concerns can help arrive at an appropriate solution for your navigation system. Also keep in mind that for any one problem there may be a large palate of navigation mechanisms and navigation types that solve it. You need to be familiar with the tools of craft. Part 1 gives an overview of web navigation, navigation behavior, and some of the building blocks needed in creating effective systems.

Part 2: A Framework for Navigation Design
Every completed web project has a process because there is an outcome. Something had to have happened to get to the final result. The question is if the process was planned or unplanned, implicit or explicit, or organized or chaotic. Part 2 offers a systematic framework for navigation design. Describing the process in terms of phases helps us focus on individual aspects and learn from the method more easily. In practice, however, the steps you’ll take in creating navigation probably won’t be linear, but instead you’ll move back to a previous steps or skip ahead. The phases presented here represent modes of thinking and not blocks of time on a project plan. Overall, web navigation design is about moving from an abstract concept to a concrete solution.

Part 3: Navigation in Special Contexts
Navigation underlies most aspects of web design. As new design techniques, new types of web services, and new technologies emerge, good navigation design continues to play a critical role in their success. The last part of this book surveys several different contexts for web navigation: integrating navigation and search, creating effective navigation systems for social classifications and tagging services, and developing navigation with rich web applications.

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