Where have all the menus gone?
1 January 2016
Have you happened to visit any innovative website lately? Have you noticed that there aren't any navigation menus? You are not mistaken. So, you might have asked yourself, how does one navigate through these websites? You can navigate by using the search bar which will find your destination after typing in a word or two, or by clicking on the few icons on the homepage which highlight the important/useful tools, maybe even a teaser or two.
As the years go by, we are flooded by an inflation of both information and tools utilized to receive and distribute information. Each website includes so much information that navigating through the most efficient and organized content tree will take far more time than typing in a couple of words and pressing the Enter button. The more we advance as organizations, the more Google-style searches become more popular and necessary in organizations as well- a phenomenon which enhances our search skills and habits.
Optimally characterized search engines will usually first present the currently "hot" search results. The homepages will present only updated/useful items. When we require a search history, we need only move a page or two or change the search words.
Imagine a situation in which you have lost your Smartphone. You must now search for it, and are facing two options:
Call it. If it happens to ring, bingo! You found it. If it is on "vibrate" mode- it will take a few seconds to find. Even if it on "silent" mode, you can at least search for the blinking light emitted from the screen.
Search by trying to recall where you left it, walking through your house turning over cushions etc. This might take a frustrating hour, or even days.
Searching for an item in a website is similar to searching for a Smartphone by calling it:
If the item we are searching for is one properly promoted/tagged, it will pop up during the initial searches. Some cases might require some more "digging" into the search results, usually not more than few seconds/minutes (this rule does not apply to in-depth, research-oriented searches).
Speaking of Smartphones, website surfing and information consuming is rapidly moving to smaller screens. An entire generation consumes information from Smartphones and tablets, obviating computers. No one owning a Smartphone calls Information in order to acquire a telephone number; we all just type in the relevant details and usually find the number in several different websites. The transition to smaller screens requires organizations to construct their websites efficiently due to the smaller space each page is provided in mobile format. The navigation menu takes up lots of valuable space, and it has already been proved that it is unnecessary/inefficient as a search and navigation tool in our information-flooded websites, let alone mobile ones.
Let's search for an address on Waze: imagine you would have to search for the address by clicking on the specific location on the map. Typing in the address is much quicker, certainly if one considers the autocomplete feature most search engines provide. You begin typing, and in seconds the search bar presents a menu of several possible options. We can stop the search and click on the correct option, or (how strenuous!) type in another word or two and find the address in a matter of seconds. Searching through websites is very similar to searching for an address using Waze.
This change does not render menus/maps/hierarchy useless. These are all still important as organization tools, at least behind the scenes (or screen). Most websites will still feature a "breadcrumb trail" from the item you reached back to the home page, in order for the user to understand the context in which the item was written. A navigation menu can still be accessed through a small icon on the screen's periphery, just in case you still prefer navigating.
We are advancing towards websites which utilize search engines, leaving the menus for organization purposes (yet not displayed). So, if you haven't searched in a while- better exercise those searching skills.