Atypical Navigation Part 4
4th edition — by Patrick McNeil — Oct. 3, 2007
The Design Element
The temptation to go crazy and try new things can be very overwhelming at times; and when it comes to navigation the temptation has a way of working its way into designers minds. But the navigation is one of those parts of a site that can be very delicate. Get to crazy, and it becomes not only unusable, but incredibly frustrating. On the other hand, clever navigation can sometimes be so intuitive that it seems to increase the usability as it becomes a natural part of the site.
It seems that the real key is to consider the topic, target audience, and purpose of the site. If a navigation style that is out of the ordinary doesn't fit the topic, then avoid it at all costs. On the other hand, if the site is intended to be more of an experience then taking some more creative steps to help the navigation merge into that experience is a great idea. But overall, never loose site of the fact that people have to figure out how to use it, and that can be a fun or frustrating experience depending on what you create.
Another important factor is the target audience. Is the consumer of the site going to be kids, adults, seniors, or a mix? Everyone knows that younger people figure stuff out faster; I am still relatively young and yet I notice techno gadgetry that youngsters seem to be figuring out that I don't quiet get. In regards to seniors, the American population is becoming increasingly older as the baby boomer generation moves into retirement. As such, it would be very wise to keep this in mind as vision and color problems become an increasing problem. In other words, don't rely on pixel fonts if you expect someone in this group to use the site.
Finally the purpose of the site must be considered. As I mentioned earlier, sites geared towards an experience will likely make use of some non traditional navigation. But if your site is intended to provide corporate information to a wide range of people, you practically have no choice but to follow the norms. Sad as it is, the standards work well in many cases simply because they do not require users to relearn anything.
So, in conclusion, look for ways to make this style work for you, but certainly don't force it. And above all, don't forget that us poor saps gotta figure out how to use your creation and miss use of the style could result in a dead site.