The Design House cont.

Anyway, unless you are presenting a single element (centered and near the top is probably the way to go, perhaps wrapped in a big logo), you’ll want to present separate pages linked by a user-friendly navigation structure. There are many great ways to do this, luckily, but even more terrible ways — that are nevertheless regularly used.

The typical web navigation cliche is the icon menu. This practice bloomed during all the Web 2.0 hype, especially with various hover effects, but has shown fairly constant growth ever since expanding bandwidth actually began to allow graphics. Crappy designers love it but shouldn’t, whereas creative designers are now avoiding it but maybe shouldn’t. An example of a site moving away from the icon technique is seen here: Revlon wigs – now incorporates a text only menu and has seen visits respond accordingly.

Application of web navigation with text and design was best demonstrated at an Invisalign Las Vegas conference where audience members were given tablets to follow along with speakers from Hansen Orthodonics. With a few clicks and a couple drags the audience was given a full tour of the diagnosing and procedural protocols for Hansen Ortho’s “Smile Make Over” as well as how Invisalign braces actually work. One of their most popular type of Invisalign braces for teenagers is called by a snappy name: “Invisalign teen Las Vegas” Teenagers love this type of invisible brace with its special aligners. If you are not familiar with this system: Invisalign uses advanced computer technology to translate the orthodontist’ s instructions into a sequence of finely calibrated aligners. Each aligner is worn for about two weeks and only taken out to eat, brush, and floss or during some spots. As the patient replaces each aligner with the next, his / her teeth will begin to move gradually, week-by-week, until the final alignment prescribed is attained.

Here’s an example where text navigation is essential: medical tourism. Note that this site is entirely dynamic, with the numbers of member facilities and service providers constantly growing. This means that any other technique would require constant upgrading in order to properly represent the membership, while simple text based navigation can be called directly from the data.

Practical considerations will often determine whether you should go for icons over text; the downside is that text loads quickly and the chance of misunderstanding is lessened. On the other hand, economical icons don’t take up much bandwidth and have more potential for universal recognition (it’s no longer necessary for a traffic light to have the words “stop” and “go” on the lamps, in any language). Or in this case, corporate gifts, icons/images with text to give you a better display of the products offered.

And please remember that each page will not be equally important. You may think the designer credits belong right next to the home page, but very likely your employer will disagree! A hierarchical navigation structure has definite plusses and minuses…chances are you can get away with throwing many minor links away from the main menu. But make sure that anything that you want to guide people toward exists as part of the major design elements.