Heal Your Church WebSite


Teaching, rebuking, correcting & training in righteous web design.

A comparison of 6 common website navigation methods

Below is my take on a case study comparing 6 common navigational methods by the Usability Professionals Association including among them Rollover, Flash, and Flyout menus I often see ‘crufting-up’ various church and/or charity websites. The results, while not surprising to me, may sober-up others drunk with GUI gadgetry:

While overhauling their internal website, the designers for one of Fidelity Financial ran into some tough questions regarding which navigational approach best suited their site. As a result, they fielded six different version of their website, and gave about 120 some-odd people about 4 common tasks each.

The results – at least to me – are not surprising:

Graph of errors from Usability Professionals Association Study of Website Navigation Methods

You can read the article to see how each menu style is defined, sufficed to say that the simplest – and least glamorous – method yielded the best usability results:

  • Yahoo-style menu: 15%
  • Rollover menu: 23%
  • Flash menu: 23%
  • Expand/Contract menu: 22%
  • Drop-down menu: 15%
  • Fly-out menu: 26%

But here’s the real kicker the study results renderd:

  • There was no time savings in using ‘geekier‘ menu methods over simpler; and
  • Users reported, subjectively, no preference of ‘flashier‘ menu methods over simpler.

So does this mean you need to rip out your existing navigation on your church website? Perhaps … but that’s not my point today.

Instead, if you walk away with anything regarding this study, I’d like it to be these two things:

  1. Design user interface based upon common user workflow/tasks; and not what’s nifty; and
  2. dare to take time to test these tasks against different types of user interface methods across at least 5 different users.

Of course this implies the following:

  • that you understand your users – and understand you are not one of them
  • that you’ve enumerated the common user tasks and/or workflow
  • that you use a test site to test development before going live

So why not read the case study … and even better, the associated PDF: “Extreme Makeover: UI Edition” … as examples of how to go about making user interface decisions for your next church and/or charity website do-over.

Who knows? You might actually wind-up with website navigation as relevant to your user’s context as last Sunday’s sermon!

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