Thursday, December 23, 2004

Making your news site work for the reader

This article from Editor and Publisher about news navigation makes the welcome point that "News sites should learn from other online publishers: Links navigation is becoming less important, and search capabilities must become much more intelligent." Professional companies should devote a member of staff to search, and probably consider getting into a paid relationship with Google or Topix.net to use their search technology.

For those who aren't technically proficient enough to add a search facility to their site, there's still some useful tips, including the 'less is more' rule of navigation (i.e. avoid endless navigation columns). Rollover sub-menus and section pages will help the user much more than a list of 50 options on page 1 (eight menu options is optimum, apparently, which isn't surprising given that humans' short term memory can generally only store around seven items).

Other tips include including navigation elements within the main body of the page (where most users look, according to certain studies), and focusing some attention on the design of article pages - particularly the ends of articles, where users can be left stranded.

PS: The piece is based on an interview with information architect Christina Wodtke, who seems to have a lot of interesting things to say on the subject based on a quick Google search.

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