Wednesday, January 10, 2007

The Missing Quick Link

I’m in the midst of a site remake.

The biggest challenge I’ve encountered so far is with the navigation. How to get as much as possible to a high-level? Can’t put too much in primary navigation or it overwhelms users. But if one rolls things up too much, the resulting labels can be cryptic and things can easily get buried deep.

One feature to help users get to the crucial destinations on a site easily is the Quick Links feature. Quick Links are generally a select menu with items in the menu being links. They usually are only available on the homepage of a site.

I started seeing Quick Links about two years ago and lately it seems to be becoming common practice.

Today, while scouring the Web for inspiration for my website remake, I checked out Microsoft’s site. In my travels over the biggest and brightest websites, I hadn’t found anything innovative in overcoming the basic navigation challenge. But at Microsoft I did find an invaluable tool to bypass those problems. (The feature isn't on all MS sites, so check out Microsoft Mobile to see it.)

Their Quick Links tool improves upon the common version dramatically!

  1. It appears on every page.
  2. It appears in the top-right hand corner (opposed to the center of the page). The top-right hand corner is pretty much the standard utility bar area and it’s where users expect sitewide functionality options and search methods (eg. Search engine, site map).
  3. A mouse-over which is easy and quick to activate triggers a pop-up layer to appear with the links – this is easy to peruse and offers at-a-glance links
  4. It allows a prominent, visual way to organize the links

I intend to use this approach on the upcoming website remake. It will go a long way to solving my navigation nightmares.

So Microsoft can be innovative – maybe just not in their browsers though.

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