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Search Party- Ditching Menus for Faster Browsing

1 December 2015
Sharon Cohen-Arazi
A magnifying glass on a computer

Have you recently explored innovative websites? Did you happen to notice the absence of navigation menus? This isn't an oversight.

So, how do you navigate? Through a beautiful search function that retrieves everything with just a word or two, complemented by a few icons on the homepage highlighting essential tools and a teaser or two.

Over the years, we've been bombarded with an increasingly vast array of information and tools. Each website now contains so much content that navigating the most efficiently structured content tree takes longer than typing a few words and hitting Enter. As we advance, Google-style search functionality is becoming more prevalent, even within organizations, bolstering our search habits and skills simultaneously.

A well-structured search engine typically prioritizes displaying the most relevant and current results. Additionally, homepage features often highlight updates and valuable content. Historical information is also accessible within search engine results; you may need to browse through a page or two or adjust your search terms.

Now, consider the scenario of misplacing your smartphone. Here are two options:

  1. Call the phone; if it rings, you've found it! It might take a few extra seconds to locate if it's set to vibrate. If it's on silent mode, you can still search for the light from the screen.

  2. Methodically search through the various areas of your home, relying on your memory of where you last used or placed it. This process can sometimes take an hour, or you might stumble upon it days later.

Searching websites mirrors the process of locating a smartphone when dialing it

If the item is well-tagged or frequently accessed, it will appear prominently in the initial search results. Otherwise, we may need to delve slightly deeper into the search results, which typically take no more than a few seconds to minutes (unless we are seeking in-depth research-level information).

Speaking of smartphones, the trend toward browsing websites and consuming information on smaller screens has become prevalent. An entire generation is accustomed to accessing information primarily through smartphones and tablets, preceding traditional computers. Even for those who still use computers, there's a growing tendency to turn to our smartphones for quick tasks like looking up phone numbers—no need to dial 144 anymore. Just open your smartphone, type into the Google search bar, and presto, you have the number you need and maybe even a few extra features. With small screens come limitations on space, prompting the need for greater efficiency. Navigation menus, which occupy valuable screen real estate, are proving to be less essential for locating and navigating content.

Let's take a trip through Waze to find an address. Imagine having to search the entire map for a specific location manually. Typing the address is much quicker, especially with the word completion feature.

Start typing, and voila! Relevant addresses appear and are ready for you to select. Searching for information on websites operates similarly to searching for addresses on Waze.

However, this doesn't negate the importance of maps, content trees, or hierarchies; they're essential for maintaining organization, albeit behind the scenes. Typically, when we find the desired item on most websites, we're presented with breadcrumbs to show our current location and the context of the content. Additionally, a navigation menu can still be accessed through a small icon, just in case it's needed for navigation.

In conclusion, the trend is shifting towards search engines, leaving menus behind the scenes. If you're not already accustomed to searching, it's time to start practicing. It's simple, easy, and convenient.

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