Improve navigation by reducing the users’ options

in Interaction design

There are a number of ways to improve (eliminate, reduce, or speed up) the navigation in your applications, web sites, and devices. The most effective to is reduce the number of choices that you give users.

Here’s an example. Over the past week I have been evaluating a web-based application aimed at small businesses owners who need to manage the email accounts of their staff: adding new staff, removing staff, and so on. Over several sessions I saw users struggling to choose where to start their task on a particular web page.

The problem was that the interface offered two different controls for allocating individual staff more email capacity.  Another control (‘Edit user’) was also chosen by some users as a starting point. For the goal the test users were trying to achieve, only one of these options was right.

Keep the number of controls limited to as few as your users need to achieve their goals. This is the most effective way to overcome this ‘too many starting points’ problem. It dramatically improves people’s ability to stay oriented.

This advice doesn’t just apply to interface controls. “Reducing users’ options” also applies to the number of forms, modes, pages, screens and panels.

So wherever you can:

  • Reduce the number of windows and views
  • Reduce the number of navigation panels – always question the need for more than two navigation areas and one content area
  • Reduce the number of content panels and sections on a page or screen
  • Reduce the scrolling users have to do

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