Most people use the World Wide Web as a tool, a device to find, retrieve and exchange information so they can carry out the business and leisure of daily life.
The Internet’s most useful/popular web sites tend to be those that don’t force people to solve a navigational puzzle. Rather, these websites incorporate standard design elements – elements that are obvious and familiar to the average internet user.
If visitors feel like they have a “sense of mastery” over a web site, they will achieve their goals and find satisfaction with the experience. But if visitors find a web page confusing and difficult to use, many will click away from the site, feeling irritated and unfulfilled.
Here are three websites that use standard interface components in their design and navigational structure.
IMDb.com is a highly searchable information clearinghouse targeted at movie fans, celebrity hounds and film & TV professionals. The site features a graphical logo in the upper left corner of every page. This logo serves as a standard link back to the home page from anywhere on the site.
Horizontally to the right of the main logo are nine more static global navigation “buttons” that change color when rolled over. These blue buttons are situated on every page of the site and provide links to major areas. IMDb.com does not have an introductory “flash splash” page.
IMDb users can easily spot the site search box. It is prominently displayed at the top center of the home page and all other pages of the site, and it is highlighted with yellow. Click one of the site’s text hyperlinks, and it will change color to indicate it has been visited. Links to sibling areas are uniformly positioned in the left-hand column on inside pages. The site also supplies bread crumb navigation on inside pages.
Online retailing powerhouse Amazon.com owns IMDb.com, a relationship clearly identified at the bottom of every page. A link to site “search” and “help” is available at the bottom, too. The one element IMDb is lacking is a master table of contents or “site map.” But I do not think the site suffers without it, because its search functions superbly.
Washingtonpost.com is the online home of The Washington Post, one of the largest and most read U.S. daily newspapers. The majority of the audience are people who live in the District of Columbia, Maryland and Northern Virginia, as well as people working for and/or interested in the U.S. government, the White House and Congress.
The Post’s online identity resembles that of many other newspaper websites. It has the logo/title at top left on every page which serves as a main link back to the home page. It is organized in columns, with the site search box anchored consistently under the logo.
However, global navigation does not appear down the left side of the home page. Instead, graphical links to major sections are spread horizontally across the top of the site, and include drop down boxes that popup when rolled over. Text links to major sections are listed horizontally at the bottom of every page.
Roll over a headline and its color will change from blue to red. But the headline color will not stay red to show it has been visited.
Washingtonpost.com does not feature a “flash splash” page. But you do have to register (for free) to view full text of articles.
Once you register, notice that breadcrumb navigation appears on all inside pages. It will help you determine what major section you came from.
Washingtonpost.com appears to be consistent with its design and layout. There are links at the bottom to the site map and site index. The many, many informational hyperlinks and graphics at the bottom of the home page and inside pages make it clear that the Washington Post Company owns this website and you can contact them.
I recently used llbean.com to shop for a few new items for my daughter. The website seems to have multiple goals. First, llbean.com serves as the digital identity of the Maine-based outdoor apparel company. Second, it is a retail site for the company’s products and services. And lastly, it is a utilitarian site for existing customers to track orders or sign up for special email newsletters.
The site features the logo in the upper left corner of all pages. That logo is a link back to the llbean.com home page. A text “home” link is also situated underneath the logo.Llbean.com does not feature a splash “flash” page. The white background of the site provides a clean canvas for the dark green, light green and tan accents that surround the product pictures.
The site search box is fixed in the upper left corner, below the logo. Some of the global navigation of the site is provided horizontally at the top with green buttons that say “Shop | Explore the Outdoors | Customer Service | My Account.”
More of the site’s static navigation is positioned in a column on the left. This menu is broken down into categories and sub-categories. Two of these categories include “About LLBean” and “Need Help?” The former has links to company information, contact info and address. The latter has a “site map” link. verall, links change color (red) when rolled over, but don’t stay changed to reveal a visited link.
In addition, LLBean.com offers bread crumb trail navigation on its inside pages. The site is straightforward, consistent and functional, albeit a little-old fashioned.