Queron Jephcott Team : User Experience and Information Architecture Tags : Usability User Experience Featured

Standardising the web: The navigation edition

Queron Jephcott Team : User Experience and Information Architecture Tags : Usability User Experience Featured

The web is anything but standardised.

There are reasons and good they’re good ones:

  • No one owns the Internet.
  • Anyone can access it.
  • There are few rules if any.

Near 25 years of rapid, unruly expansion has been tempered precious few times through an attempt by industry leaders to reign in a world’s Internet population. This lack of regulation has allowed the web to evolve out of control, quite often too fast for its visitors.

The web expects a lot of us.

It’s demanded entire civilisations, willing and unwilling alike, to ramp up their technical skills to simply exist in a modern world. It’s demanded people re-learn tasks they’ve been doing their entire lives. The very people that conceived its infancy now struggle to keep up with its exponential growth.

Ensuring everyone is able to keep up with the ever changing web, we introduce the need for standardisation. So after many poorly contrived metaphors, we get to the subject of this edition…


25 years has seen almost every possible layout of the web navigation. What’s interesting about the last couple of years, is that we’ve started to hide it.

Why are we hiding navigation?

Well, aside for the possible crazy aesthetic dreams of your minimalist creative designer whose ideal office is a single, empty white cube with a tear shaped desk suspended from the roof, quite likely you’re hiding the navigation because you just don’t have room to show it. In other words, the mobile phone.

Mobile web design has forced us to reduce web design to its bare essence, stripped free of anything that’s simply adding clutter, adding to page weight or dragging attention away from the currently viewed web page.

In terms of navigation, many variations have been used to handle a navigation on a smaller screen…

Many use a button to show and hide that navigation...

Many use different symbols and words on those buttons…

A man I admire, Mr Andy Clarke, called for the need to standardise the navigation symbol over two years ago. Unfortunately, the world didn’t adopt a single icon. It’s not surprising... iOS and Android (two who could have drastically helped this cause) were never going to agree on a consistent icon any more than Internet Explorer and Netscape Navigator were going to agree on how web pages should be written back in 2000.

Now we’re playing catch-up. The navigation options that Andy Clarke mentions are still all in use today. The world is probably learning towards the infamous hamburger menu, but they’re not there yet. The prevalence of the hamburger menu has been a recent discussion at work. Should it be used? Do people understand it?

I’m an interesting UX person in the respect that I’ve often be accused of being too ‘survival of the fittest’. Don’t get me wrong, I the first to remember the painful process of trying to teach my mother, over the phone, to ‘tweet’ using the Twitter app. I also respect that she has a smart phone, she has a laptop and she uses them every day. I accept that she’s not even on the scale of computer proficiency that we would use to measure every person in our office, but she’s still using them… every day... and continuing to use them… everyday…

On the flip side, I watch my nieces use smart phones or our managing directors kids use his smartphone minutes before dropping it on the pavement. I watch their ‘trial-by-error’ method of learning. It’s fascinating. We sit down at the pub and debate whether a current mobile lock screen is intuitive to unlock. These kids brute force try every possible method to unlock a phone.

After the figure it out the first time, they learn…

My ‘survival of the fittest’ views stem from the fact that I want my mother to learn that the hamburger means navigation. She needs too. It’s not going anywhere and she’ll be left behind if she doesn’t learn. The hamburger, like any icon, will only hold meaning if the world wholly adopts this standardisation.

Whether the hamburger menu becomes as recognisable as any of the following is in the hands of the Internet community.