List of navigation and IA usability guidelines
- There is a convenient and obvious way to move between related pages and sections and it is easy to return to the home page.
- The information that users are most likely to need is easy to navigate to from most pages.
- Navigation choices are ordered in the most logical or task-oriented manner.
- The navigation system is broad and shallow (many items on a menu) rather than deep (many menu levels).
- The site structure is simple, with a clear conceptual model and no unnecessary levels.
- The major sections of the site are available from every page (persistent navigation) and there are no dead ends.
- Navigation tabs are located at the top of the page, and look like clickable versions of real-world tabs.
- There is a site map that provides an overview of the site's content.
- The site map is linked to from every page.
- The site map provides a concise overview of the site, not a rehash of the main navigation or a list of every single topic.
- Good navigational feedback is provided (e.g. showing where you are in the site).
- Category labels accurately describe the information in the category.
- Links and navigation labels contain the "trigger words" that users will look for to achieve their goal.
- Terminology and conventions (such as link colours) are (approximately) consistent with general web usage.
- Links look the same in the different sections of the site.
- Product pages contain links to similar and complementary products to support cross-selling.
- The terms used for navigation items and hypertext links are unambiguous and jargon-free.
- Users can sort and filter catalogue pages (e.g. by listing in price order, or showing 'most popular').
- There is a visible change when the mouse points at something clickable (excluding cursor changes).
- Important content can be accessed from more than one link (different users may require different link labels).
- Navigation-only pages (such as the home page) can be viewed without scrolling.
- Hypertext links that invoke actions (e.g downloads, new windows) are clearly distinguished from hypertext links that load another page.
- The site allows the user to control the pace and sequence of the interaction.
- There are clearly marked exits on every page allowing the user to bale out of the current task without having to go through an extended dialog.
- The site does not disable the browser's "Back" button and the "Back" button appears on the browser toolbar on every page.
- Clicking the back button always takes the user back to the page the user came from.
- A link to both the basket and checkout is clearly visible on every page.
- If the site spawns new windows, these will not confuse the user (e.g. they are dialog-box sized and can be easily closed).
- Menu instructions, prompts and messages appear on the same place on each screen.
You can also download translated versions of this checklist.
How to use these guidelines
Work through each of the items in the list and mark your site as either conforming or not conforming to the guideline.
Remember that all guidelines are context specific. If you feel that a guideline does not apply to your site, it's OK to ignore it.
These guidelines are purposefully expressed as positive statements, so that when you feed the results back to the design team you can identify some strengths of the design before you launch into the problems.
About the author
Dr. David Travis (@userfocus on Twitter) holds a BSc and a PhD in Psychology and he is a Chartered Psychologist. He has worked in the fields of human factors, usability and user experience since 1989 and has published two books on usability. David helps both large firms and start ups connect with their customers and bring business ideas to market. If you like his articles, you'll love his online user experience training course.
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Have you used these guidelines to evaluate an interface? Which guidelines do you find most useful?