WEM Best Practices: Page Navigation
By Michael Snow on Feb 03, 2012
Today’s guest post on WEM Best Practices comes from a member of our WebCenter Evangelist team, Noël Jaffré, a Principal Technologist based in France.
Users interact with Web pages by clicking on links and submitting forms. However, behind this simplified navigation road on the web page there are four major types of page flow navigation dictating how to interact with the web site from a reader, visitor or prospect perspective. Why is the experience of reading a web site like oracle.com, OMV.at radically different than a site like gore.com, bestbuy.com, amazon.com, booking.com, or news.com.au ? Let’s try to identify the objectives of the webmaster and the benefits for the visitors.
Page Hierarchy Navigation
OMV and Oracle web site provides a top navigation web site, on the home page a few boxes to access categorized information, and on the next navigation level a vertical menu to drive down on three more levels in the three. So -- all of the information is accessible using the navigation tree. On some content in top right boxes there are cross links to access one level of related content. Basically the web site is built from a tree hierarchy, and we assemble content at every level.
Contributors assumed the visitors are minded to access the content in one unique way. And this way is their way.
Visitors have to follow a principle of navigating, designed by the web site manager. The navigation through the content is limited as there is no or poor relation between content.
Static web sites are by nature designed using page hierarchy navigation. Webmasters, when designing desktop and dashboard web sites, whether they are personalized or not by visitors, use this approach to assemble content and applications through a single web page hierarchy. Implemented within Portal technologies, it’s particularly appreciated by application developers, since there is a clear separation between the portal navigation and application page flows. It lets developers designing application logic and presentation independently from the organization of the targeted website.
This approach is great to create a desktop environment to assemble components or to build a dashboard to have a global vision on activities, tasks or jobs.
The user engagement is as light as opening and closing a drawer to access information.
Search, Faceted or Dynamic Navigation
Google search is the best example of full text search. Here the navigation is created by the search engine. It returns a set of items, and the business users just follow the suggestions.
With faceted search like Gore.com, bestbuy.com, walmart.com sites, when visitor requests to view all products from the product page, he is requested to select a category to filter the content. On selection, the visitor is requested to click on subcategories to again reduce the list of product. The digging process ends when there are no more products available for selected categories and sub-categories.
Here content or product are arranged and organized in a tree created dynamically through the metadata data structure. There are multiple root trees associated with the metadata. Visitors dig down in the catalog using a specific root. Each business user can access the same content through multiple categories, and therefore follows their own path for navigation. A consumer is accessing the product or content using their own thoughts or knowledge about the content or product. Contributors have just to assign the right meta-data on the content and it appears automatically in multiple hierarchies.
The user engagement is relatively limited when using a full text search. It’s a very good approach to initiate a journey. Faceted search is unique to engage business user to navigate and discover product within a catalog.
Barclays, Santander, bestbuy.com, walmart.com and most of the banking or commerce web sites provide a set of functions to provide online banking, purchase products, customers services,... These functions are often named business transaction or online transactions typically for data entry and retrieval. It provides a set of screens to track a process flow. The process flow is predefined through a business process in order to achieve a complete task or action by the business user. The goal is to give a high level quality of services within a controlled process for the business user.
For banking it consist of a financial transaction such as an account to account transfer, paying a bill, wire transfer, applying for a loan, new account,...
For eCommerce it refers to the process of placing a product in the shopping cart, and managing all the transaction flow to convert a visitor to become a buyer. A buying funnel is a term to describe the entire buying process for a consumer. It is a description that involves all the steps in the purchasing process, and also goes by the names of buying cycle, buyer decision cycle, and sales cycle.
The navigation here is completely driven by a workflow, predefined through the analysis of a business process. So the visitor or business user has to follow the process in order to accomplish the task.
Following this process is a need for the business user, but there is nothing fancy to accomplish this task. It has to be simple, safe, secure and very short.
The user engagement and motivation is the pleasurable emotion before the action and the perspective of the results after the transaction. The transaction and the business application has just to be done fast. It’s a “mal nécéssaire” !
Amazon and booking are web sites that have extended the navigation through a social model. It refers to a user navigation guided by the activities or suggestions from the other in the same space. Let us take a situation where someone is lost in the desert. He tends to see if there were past activities, footprints from others, to help find his own way. The one is tempted to follow others having done the same activity or navigation previously.
Recommendation systems use information from purchase histories to suggest product because other buyers who already bought this item also bought this other list of products. E-Commerce engines are using feedback and ratings to highlight hotels or services based on the experiences of others. The navigation is driven by others who went on the site before.
The web experience and engagement is based on the trust and certainty.
news.com.au, roularta.be, all the media and press web sites are content driven. There is a set of lists of content on the front page organized by theme, such as sport, politics, world,... information depending on the news of the day. The main page also drives the visitor directly to the main themes through a menu bar directly accessible from the top menu bar. A click on one of the pieces of content switch the visitor from a page theme view to a content item view, such as an article, a video, a product or whatever content type is available on the web site. From there the visitor gets the content item presented in the main section of the page. All the regional sides of the page are used to associate the related content item associated with the content currently consumed by the visitor. Related items are content talking about the same subjects (a set of articles), the same content presented using other media types (pictures, image slide show, video, audio player, flash,...). When reading the new content item, the user retrieves the same presentation of the content item in main section. The content is presented with a new layout for a different media type, but still with the same concept of related content.
Readers are looking for the information of the day directly accessible from the home page or specific content linked through a thematic accessible by a click on the main menu bar (politics, sports,...). The concept of related content gives the readers an infinite possibility to dig into the content data warehouse, following their own feeling or humor.
The content navigation model is based on a view of the content type. There is one view per content type. A navigation between two articles keeps the same view, but changes the context of the view, and therefore all the related contents.
This content view model is extendable to embed contextual navigation for any object type; content, product, application or conversation.... So a view of an article already suggests related content, products, services and applications. By including the profile of the user, we personalize the related objects. Geo-localizing the visitor will help suggest local restaurants or services. The site is defined as a succession of contextual views based on object types. It’s simple to design, implement, extend and maintain.
Navigation or path to access content on the site is an individual experience, unique, and always different for each connection. Web experience and engagement are a journey!
As a conclusion, a good engaging web site will use a combination of multiple flow navigation. In a competitive market place understanding customer’s needs become an important factor. As a result, companies have moved from a product-centric to a customer centric position or customer oriented marketing. It’s more difficult to make their physical products differ from their competitors than before. It’s not only about business transactions that involve ordering and payment. One of the most important ways to gain superior profitability is the delivery of electronic communications, information exchange about the products and delivery, and last but not least, superior customer service.
In such new modern web sites, search, parametric search and content navigation are used to attract, identify, anticipate and satisfy customer requirements. Funnel navigation takes a visitor from the previous internet advertising, a search system, or navigating e-commerce web sites to convert him as a customer and finalize the transaction in a closed path.