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CreativeStable says

Hi folks!

I work for an agency as a web developer. Most of my colleagues come from a print background and we seem to be running into this same problem with every site we build. I’m looking for some pointers to backup my argument so that we don’t run in to this stupid issue anymore.

The issue: You have a website with a fairly complex navigation (dropdowns). You build the site so that the top level navigation item links to a page.

When the client supplies content to be integrated into the site, they only supply content for the pages within the dropdowns… not the top level.

My colleagues just want to make the top level plain text so you can’t actually click on anything unless you choose something from the dropdown. I think this is terrible for usability because a) dropdowns can be difficult to use and b) usually the top level is an overview of what’s in the subsequent pages and you expect it to be a link.

It becomes especially problematic when not all menu items have a dropdown… so now you have SOME items that are clickable and others that are not… which is completely inconsistent and confusing.

Their argument is that the user will “get it” because they get it.

My solution is to simplify the navigation and move some of the content from the dropdowns, into the parent item.

Can someone back me up on this? Does anyone have anything else to add to my argument? I am having a difficult time tackling this one.

THANKS !

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ReedBotwright says

I think the long and the short of it is: it depends. It depends on the target audience, the ease and consistency of the current information architecture design, and the functional context of the destination pages (like sergiupopa mentions). There is no right answer.

Simplifying the information architecture can be a very good thing, but not if it sacrifices consistency.

I found some great resources you might want to peruse: http://www.noupe.com/design/fantastic-information-architecture-resources.html

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bobsawey says

Depending on what is going on… this might help:

Usually we choose a secondary item and promote it to be the landing item for the top level element.

I can’t see what you are actually doing so I’m not sure if this actually address’s to your question properly. I’m a very visual person.

Do you have a mockup or a sketch you can send that illustrates the idea? I can probably give some pretty helpful feedback on IA and usability once I see what your office process is like.

-Bobby Bo Bob

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jonathan01 says

@CreativeStable – you reasoning is correct and the way I would fully recommend.

10 years of web development experience has ALWAYS told me if you “get it” then visitors don’t :) – never presume a visitor will get ANYTHING – create a site like this:

Design for designers Program for coders Usability for a child

Print people should NEVER get involved in web design – they are 2 completely different mediums – they just don’t get it at all.

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imaginem says

+1 to move in an item to the parent.

This is an interesting topic. I think we have a great example menu just on top here (@themeforest). The drop down Parent item and the first item in the drop down list has the same link. That should be what you’re suggesting too.

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bobsawey says
@CreativeStable – you reasoning is correct and the way I would fully recommend.

10 years of web development experience has ALWAYS told me if you “get it” then visitors don’t :) – never presume a visitor will get ANYTHING – create a site like this:

Design for designers Program for coders Usability for a child

Print people should NEVER get involved in web design – they are 2 completely different mediums – they just don’t get it at all.

goooooood feedback

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CreativeStable says
Also consider the possibility to let the users know about the dropdown menu (in case you’ll stick with the top-level items without links). For example, a arrow pointed down. The user will know it’s a dropdown. However, I would go for the arrows, top level item with link and finally drop-down with the last content added.

I very much agree with this, and it is definitely something that is lacking with these designs.

What kind of content are you adding?
An example would be:
  • About Us
    • Company History
    • Our Team
    • Location
    • Process

Where the client does not supply content for “about us”, but everything else. My solution in the case would probably be to move company history into the parent, but sometimes it is not as clear as that.

@jonathan01 I love them, but sometimes it’s frustrating as hell. They are learning though :P I am doing a presentation to them next week on Form and Function.

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CreativeStable says
I found some great resources you might want to peruse: http://www.noupe.com/design/fantastic-information-architecture-resources.html

Thanks pal!

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bobsawey says

Oh dude. This is such on a non-issue becoming an issue, I could vomit cheerios.

Move Our Team to serve as About Us content.

“Our Team” is the title of the page, and if needed the title of the menu item.

NO MENU ITEM NEEDED … HADURRRRP

So remove Our Team from the menu, and link About us to Our Team..

Or company history… which ever one feels like it fits best.

dang.

STRAIGHT UP

here is an example of this idea put to use without dropdowns. Same theory though:

http://www.cleanint.com/

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ReedBotwright says

Yeah, I think a good rule of thumb (pardon the sexism) is to “promote” the most important child to act as the link for the parent menu item. This should be done consistently across the site then. And may cause confusion in the case where you perform this fix in one menu branch, but some/all of the other menus have valid and unique parent link content.

Visual cues can go a long way to rectify any confusion.

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