Adam Tedeschi Team : User Experience Tags : User Experience

Anyone for a Tab?

Adam Tedeschi Team : User Experience Tags : User Experience

I’ve been doing a lot of wire-framing lately. More than any man should have to do. Many of the sites have similarities despite existing in different industries. They have all had relatively complex topics and stories to tell; semantic computing; modern healthcare practices; complex surgical equipment to name a few. But it has been interesting as each time I considered the content with the clients there is a similar design pattern in everyone’s mind. Tabs.

It’s pretty easy right? You have a lot of info for a technical audience. Stick it all in a row of tabs and the user can select which interests them most and click away. Well yeah… except it doesn’t really work that well.

It doesn’t work for a few reasons.

  1. The label of the tab has to be meaningful, and in technical industries that can be difficult to keep it short and intuitive

  2. Thanks to scrollable devices many users are trained to go down a content page, not horizontally within in (i.e.: clicking across tabs)

  3. It is usual, when dealing with products for instance, that we are creating a template for our clients to populate through a CMS. And not all content is consistent, so we end up with tabs that have reams of info, or tabs that have a sentence. The user doesn’t know until they click, and it can be a real let down.

  4. There is only so much space across any page – so you have to hope you only need 4-5 tabs.

  5. It doesn’t work well on mobile.

There are a few simple ways to solve the tab problem. The solution though is so obvious that sometimes it feels like we just aren’t trying.

Running the content down the page in content blocks is one way. Adding some simple content labels at the top or the side of the page allows for a rudimentary navigation for those that want it. And for the scroller’s, well, they scroll.

We have user tested this approach before. From a findability perspective the longer page wins out.

Another good way is to actually consider the content! Revolutionary. Let’s not just dump all those words on the page, let’s read them first. Determine what it all means and find a better way of communicating it.  Perhaps an info-graphic with an optional download for really technical, in-depth info. Maybe a video or a link deeper into a content or blog area.

If there really is a need for a lot of text then crafting the copy to summarise the gist followed by a read more link that pushes the page with more content is a simple and neat option to keep the pages short and to the point.

The point of all of this is that tabs are neat. They can certainly help to categorise your content. But a better solution is to consider why you need that content in the first place. Maybe ask your customers before you write it. Consider a good content framework that breaks down your content into topics so you can prioritise your messages. Find a good content writer to shorten up your content and make it more relevant.

Don’t just jam it in some tabs.