Jakob Nielsen and his Nielsen Norman Group seems to has a love/hate relationship with the web design community. While his usability work is definitely pioneering, he seems to be an old curmudgeon that ignores how graphic/web design is an important part of User Experience. For him its definitely function over form.
One recent article put out by the Nielsen Norman Group by by Jennifer Cardello and Kathryn Whitenon “Killing Off The Global Navigation: One Trend To Avoid” I found myself agreeing with quite a bit. Their summary states
“Summary: For desktop sites, demoting your main content categories into a drop-down menu makes it harder for users to discover your offerings.”
If you are hiding your main menu, how can people quickly jump from section to section of your website?
“Traditionally, global navigation appears on every page of a website, and serves 2 functions:
- Allows users to switch between top-level categories easily, no matter their current location
- Ensures that even users who don’t enter through the homepage can quickly get a sense of what is available on the website”
This brings us to the new redesign of Time Magazine’s Website, who along with Slate, NPR, NBCNews, have chosen to ditch the traditional omni-present ttop global navigation, for a drop down menu using the “horizontal bar icon” that mobile sites have used to hide their navigations.
News websites traditionally have had a top navigation that links you to news separated into categories…international, local, sports, economy, technology, etc.
But as news organizations have started to embrace responsive web design, some are getting rid of their top navigations in favor of hiding the menu in a drop down, using the same “hamburger” icon that mobile websites use to hide their main menus.
Bloomberg News is a strange hybrid of both, offering the menu icon AND a top nav, with repetitive links, and when it opens it obscures the website’s logo. Odd.
To hide a menu on a mobile device makes sense, since there is a lack of room/real estate to display a full menu. But at desktop or even tablet size it makes little sense, since there is room enough to show the main menu. Why make it harder for users to get to the section of news they are interested in?
For older and non smartphone users, do they know that the horizontal bar icon = menu? It’s relatively new convention. It’s probably why both Time and NBC had to put the word MENU under the icon, since some people may not know what it means.
However when you do get to an interior section on both Time and NBCNews, they do offer a more traditional top navigation of subtopics within that section.
But to be fair and balanced, the new time.com has a good balance of text, image, and whitespace. Headlines are easily scannable. Their is no indulging in trendy huge photos or horsey type. It’s the anti-NBC.
Getting around in the site is a bit difficult. When you click on “Latest” or “Popular” does suffer from the trendy and sometimes annoying infinite scroll. How do i get out of the long list of articles? How can I switch to the Sports or Technology section. I feel a bit lost in the site.
All in all, its becoming very interesting to see how websites, especially news and e-commerce sites in how they embrace Responsive Web Design. It’s almost like 1995 all over again.