Keep website navigation simple

Chris Heilmann makes a lot of very important points regarding website navigation in Navigation - our visitors’ travel guide. The following sums it up pretty well:

If our navigation grabs the visitors’ attention and distracts from the content, then it failed its purpose. The content should determine the navigation, not the other way around.

Ouch. That’s gotta hurt for some web designers out there - namely those that view content as little more than a necessary evil to complement their latest super cool Flash-based navigation.

Posted on October 1, 2005 in Accessibility, Quicklinks, Usability


  1. Interesting indeed. At work we once tried to build the content of a website by first defining the menu/sitemap and later fill in the pages with content. It failed big time! The second attempt hasn’t started yet but when it does, we’ll start writing the content first and then split it up into pages that describe the chunks of content.

  2. I used to build my websites first in plain text (in fact HTML without any design), usualy helping the client to focus on what he want’s to write in the website, where, etc. This naturaly lead us (me and the client…) to a map and navigation that is slightly different from the one we expected at first glance. THEN, and only then, when we got about 90% of the content, and the navigation (menu, sub-menu, …), I begin to think about the design and how this design may deserve all this previous work.

    It’s a way to build non-distracting navigation and non-distracting design, because you have to deserve the content first.

  3. I find that often site plans are done before anything is written and the people writing those plans then expect the designers to design an empty container for the content, which will then fill it up.

    It rarely works that way.

    At the University where I work we try to get the content written early so that one can then see what you have, and then come up with appropriate mechanisms for wayfinding.

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