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Menu placement opinions

  • # April 23, 2013 at 10:18 pm

    What are your thoughts on removing the traditional placement of the menu (usually at the top or side of a webpage) and putting it somewhere where the user has to scroll through your content to get to it? I’m speaking of unimportant links (about, contact, FAQ, etc) and leaving the homepage linkable at the top, attached to the logo.

    I’d like to keep a list of sites that use this method. If anyone comes across a site that implements this, please share the URL.

    http://alistapart.com

    # April 27, 2013 at 2:18 pm

    Anyone else have thoughts about A List Apart’s menu placement?

    # April 27, 2013 at 2:46 pm

    I think in this case emphasis is on the most current articles, at least on the home page. Once you click on the article, menu is on the top allowing you to explore. Works for this “magazine” style publication. But I would advise to avoid this if you do not have something that engages user from the start.

    # April 27, 2013 at 3:01 pm

    Well, isn’t the point to get the user to immediately engage in your content? I think menus usually distract the user to click on them rather than read content as they should.

    I’m not even sure the menu at the top even makes sense in this case. The user will click on an article that they intend to read, correct? So as the user starts reading the content, they have to scroll down, eventually reaching the menu at the bottom after they’ve finished with the article. So what’s the point in adding a menu at the top?

    # April 27, 2013 at 5:56 pm

    The redesign of this site is an interesting one that has challenged existing conventions in numerous way, navigation being one of them.

    I have seen sites that display no navigation initially but as soon as you start to scroll, a fixed top navigation appears. Whereas in this case you have to scroll all the way to the bottom.

    I agree with the initial engagement, and does kind of work for A list apart but can’t really see this being as successful with any other type of site. Having navigation present can be seen as an online guide to know where you are and what the site offers. I would love to see results of their user behaviour.

    I see fixed navs to the bottom of the browser window starting to trend recently, which seem to work well in my opinion.

    # April 27, 2013 at 6:11 pm

    The redesign of this site is an interesting one that has challenged existing conventions in numerous way, navigation being one of them.

    I agree. I’ve asked them if they’ve had any complaints about the menu being placed at the bottom but never heard back. I do think their type choices are a waste, though.

    Ultimately, I believe it depends on the layout structure that determines the success of having a menu at the bottom. Personally, I like the idea of forcing the user to focus on the content rather than being intrigued to browse around the site, first.

    I see fixed navs to the bottom of the browser window starting to trend recently, which seem to work well in my opinion.

    Sarah Parmenter’s company site has this but I think it looks ridiculous.

    # April 27, 2013 at 7:29 pm

    Yes I agree, it would definitely depend on layout and goals of the site.

    I’m not a fan of the nav on her company site either, it’s quite an eye sore, on desktop, however, it seems like they went for a mobile-first approach where this design would work well (Big touch areas and bottom navigation within comfortable distance from thumbs).

    Talking of bottom navigation on mobile, I find brad frost’s site interesting. http://bradfrostweb.com – Bottom nav on desktop and top nav on phone. I would have thought the other way round would have made more sense in terms of user experience.

    I do like the idea of forcing the user around the site, however I feel a new user may feel a bit of an initial disconnect and unfamiliarity with the site, as you would be repositioning one of the most important elements of a site, one which many users have come to rely on to find their way.

    This can work, there just needs to be a clear flow to guide the user around the site.

    # April 27, 2013 at 9:42 pm

    > I like the idea of forcing the user to focus on the content rather than being intrigued to browse around the site, first.

    I don’t like the idea of “forcing” a user to do anything, and is not what best practice is about. ALA can afford to buck against best practice because they have a solid user base of technically advanced users they can challenge, but for the “average” user it would be very inadvisable I believe.

    And for the majority of sites you don’t really know for certain what the user wants to achieve. They may just want your contact details, or they may want details of one particular service you offer, not your latest blog post …etc.

    # April 28, 2013 at 8:47 am

    I don’t like the idea of “forcing” a user to do anything, and is not what best practice is about. – @deeve007

    Sometimes you don’t have to. Based on statistics and analytics you can get a grasp of how majority of users will behave. And we force users to do things without even realizing it. But what I meant above is “intrigue” the user to focus on the content, first.

    Majority of websites have a typical layout pattern, therefore, users have an understanding of where things already are. Menus are usually at the top of a website however, according to studies, it’s best to have them on the left. Why are top menus even relevant? People don’t come to your site to navigate. They come to read your content. And if by reading your content you land at the bottom of a page, shouldn’t it be at the bottom? Even if the user doesn’t actually read the content, they will most likely still scroll to the bottom regardless.

    A few years or so ago there was this whole “keep important content above the fold” campaign which turned out to be a myth. That still didn’t stop people from blogging and advocating it. The fold is irrelevant. So I think there are people in this industry who create these ‘taglines’ without research and people actually go by them or even worse, teach others. Also be aware that even big companies get it wrong. In fact, it happens quite often in many industries.

    because they have a solid user base of technically advanced users they can challenge, but for the “average” user it would be very inadvisable I believe.

    Are you suggesting that the “average” user can’t comprehend a website based on menu placement? When I first visited the new ALA site, which is why I bring this whole topic up for discussion, I automatically started reading the content. I wasn’t worried about where the menu was. I didn’t even realize it had an impact until I reached the bottom and saw the menu, which then, I was intrigued to click around. I think this is intelligent because it engages the user from the very beginning and possibly even keeps them on the site longer.

    And for the majority of sites you don’t really know for certain what the user wants to achieve.

    That’s the whole point of analytics.

    # April 28, 2013 at 8:50 am

    > Talking of bottom navigation on mobile, I find brad frost’s site interesting. http://bradfrostweb.com – Bottom nav on desktop and top nav on phone. I would have thought the other way round would have made more sense in terms of user experience. – @croydon86

    I really think this is smart. I’m more focused on his content rather than trying to find his menu.

    > This can work, there just needs to be a clear flow to guide the user around the site.

    I agree. Also, we probably shouldn’t use the word “force” either as I don’t think that’s what we mean. I think “guide” is more appropriate.

    # April 28, 2013 at 12:55 pm

    > Why are top menus even relevant? People don’t come to your site to navigate. They come to read your content.

    They come to find information. And very, very few websites have everything that can be found on a site on the homepage.

    >And if by reading your content you land at the bottom of a page, shouldn’t it be at the bottom? Even if the user doesn’t actually read the content, they will most likely still scroll to the bottom regardless.

    Actually, I think most usability studies – and certainly the relevant ones I’ve been involved in – find that most users do not do that. They glance at your homepage content, and then either leave or go to the information you want.

    The only reason ALA would have implemented their nav choice would have been if they had lots of research showing _their_ users behave in a certain way. But presuming that’s how the majority of users behave would be extremely naive in my opinion.

    >Also, we probably shouldn’t use the word “force” either as I don’t think that’s what we mean. I think “guide” is more appropriate.

    Semantics. Anytime you don’t provide what the user wants, you’re forcing them into a behaviour that may not equal what they want to do. And you have a far higher chance of losing them.

    For the majority of sites, if they tried the ALA methodology, I would expect the bounce rate to rise significantly.

    And you’re acting like this is something new? I’ve been in the web game for 15 years, I rode the first wave of sites when they tried to “experiment” with usability to be “cool”. People soon realised that for the majority of sites it didn’t work. Same old same old for me, any fairly simple A/B test would show that for the _majority_ of sites this would not work.

    # April 28, 2013 at 3:21 pm

    I agree with deeve007. Forcing, urging, encouraging, steering the user to do something or find what they’re looking for in a particular way will cost you returning visits. I assume ALA analyzed their typical visitor and decided that the new presentation is best, but for most sites something similar to theirs would be a mistake.

    I know that visitor behavior can change. If a new way of presenting a site (either content or menus) turns out to be popular, users will eventually embrace it. But this is a slow process, and in most cases it’s not wise to be so “cutting-edge” that you’re way ahead of typical visitor behavior and preferences.

    Regarding ALA’s redesign, my initial feeling is very negative, and definitely discourages me from returning. I realize that people are resistant to change, and that once they get used to a change they can accept it. But my first reactions are:

    1) Where did everything go?

    2) How am I gonna find what I want?

    3) Why is the text so large?

    4) Why is the text area so narrow?

    5) Don’t waste so much space “above the fold” (and I believe there **IS** some validity to this concept) on an illustration (much as I admire their excellent artwork). Just show me the content, and an easy way to find my way around the site.

    # April 28, 2013 at 9:16 pm

    > I assume ALA analyzed their typical visitor and decided that the new presentation is best

    100% guaranteed they did extensive testing. And most likely found out that _for their specific target user_ reading the current article was the initial main goal.

    # April 29, 2013 at 8:34 am

    They come to find information. – @deeve007

    In a roundabout way, you’re agreeing with me. Keep in mind I’m speaking about sites that, overall, are based on articles.

    Actually, I think most usability studies – and certainly the relevant ones I’ve been involved in – find that most users do not do that. They glance at your homepage content, and then either leave or go to the information you want.

    According to studies I’ve read, most do not visit the homepage but rather visit a specific page that is relevant to the information they’re trying to find. And when they find that content, they read.

    Semantics. Anytime you don’t provide what the user wants, you’re forcing them into a behaviour that may not equal what they want to do. And you have a far higher chance of losing them.

    Humans are very unpredictable. One person may not want the same result as another. Having the content being the main focus is not only the purpose of most sites but all other minor info (contact details, about info, etc) are irrelevant to show immediately.

    I’m not forcing the user not to navigate my site. I’m guiding them to skim my content first and make a decision based on article titles to see if they prefer to read those articles or not. If not, they can scroll down and see my menu.

    For the majority of sites, if they tried the ALA methodology, I would expect the bounce rate to rise significantly.

    I think it certainly depends on the layout structure and other factors but I wouldn’t say “majority”.

    I’ve been in the web game for 15 years.

    Years in the industry ≠ success

    Same old same old for me, any fairly simple A/B test would show that for the majority of sites this would not work.

    You have no data to back that up. I think you’re being naive to the fact that the web isn’t what it used to be back in the 90’s or early 2000’s. The way we can structure our site today is mind-blowing when you compare it to those times. The web layout structure was quite similar then. So, perhaps users (and ourselves) became comfortable, even used to, the way a site looked and should look and where specific content should be placed. Does that mean it cannot be elsewhere? Why should we have to stick to defaults?

    # April 29, 2013 at 8:48 am

    > Forcing, urging, encouraging, steering the user to do something or find what they’re looking for in a particular way will cost you returning visits. I assume ALA analyzed their typical visitor and decided that the new presentation is best, but for most sites something similar to theirs would be a mistake. – @snillor

    I would hope ALA studied their data to make this big of a change. But how can you assume on “most sites” it would not work? Don’t you think data should be involved here before coming to such conclusions? To rule this out is naive.

    I know that visitor behavior can change. If a new way of presenting a site (either content or menus) turns out to be popular, users will eventually embrace it. But this is a slow process, and in most cases it’s not wise to be so “cutting-edge” that you’re way ahead of typical visitor behavior and preferences.

    Well said. But let’s say for a moment that all they did was place the menu that was on the side and put it on the bottom. Would that consist of being “cutting-edge”? I’m not suggesting that it would work on their old site. In fact, I think it would work better being on the left but my point is, it depends on that layout structure.

    > 2) How am I gonna find what I want?

    Yeah, unfortunately the search form is not that easy to find on the homepage. I think they could have done a better job in that area.

    > 3) Why is the text so large?

    I have to agree that I absolutely hate large text type. I find it more annoying than ever.

    > 4) Why is the text area so narrow?

    Readability.

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