E-commerce Link: Compass Not Included
Over the past several months when driving around my home city of Chicago, I've noticed an increasing number of my fellow drivers have some kind of GPS device suction-cupped to their windshields. Admittedly, I've also fallen for the navigation craze. In fact, I rely so heavily on my GPS gadget that I've named her. There's something quite comforting in knowing where I am at any given time and having Matilda point the way to every destination.
Navigating a website is actually not all that different from navigating Chicago's neighborhoods. Just as all of our great restaurants, shops and landmarks can't live on a single block, nor can all information on a website fit on a single page.
Content needs to be divided up and spread across a network of interrelated pages. When dropped into this information space, users want to know where they are, where they can go and how to get back. The clearer the path to their digital destinations, the less anxiety they feel about the experience overall. That confidence translates—even if only subconsciously—to a user's perception of a brand. Better to leave your customers satisfied and engaged than frustrated and unsure. And so I advocate for carefully considered navigation.
Let's first talk about the types of navigation that exist on most websites, and how each of those types is used.
• Global Navigation: The global navigation bar generally sits at the top of the page within the masthead. After just one look at the options in the global nav, the user should have a high-level understanding of what a site is about. This context setting is important as it gives a rough notion of the overall site scope. Global navigation options generally persist unchanged from page to page and allow direct access to key sections of site content. The site search tool can usually be found in the global nav as well.