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Web Design and Navigation, More or Less

Nick Wilson went into a tirade today about the “state of navigational links” on blogs, and I can’t help but feel guilty that I may have been the inspiration of his post entitled “With Navigation, Less Is More”.

You see, I offered to trade links with his site (which is not something that I normally do) because it occurred to me that his site was a match for mine, (sharing a similar focus and all)… or at least so I thought.

It made sense to me at the time but I was flatly turned down with an explanation that he does NOT blogroll — period. Frankly I was astonished with his response so I asked him for a better explanation, to which he replied that he felt it looked “somewhat amateurish”.

Hmmm. By happenchance one of my browser tabs was still open on his site and I noted that he had written this new post. Was it just coincidence? Maybe, but I think not.

Anyhow, I couldn’t allow myself to be slighted (even if it was done indirectly) without replying. So Nick, without any further adieu here is my response:

In your post you state:

“By placing huge lists of links in side navigation, or cramming the bottom of your posts with social bookmarking javascript links, you only make it harder for her complete her task”.

On the face of it (sorry for the legal jargon but I work in law) that appears to be a correct statement, but unfortunately it is simplistic and as with most things not all is what it seems.

Please let me embellish a little. You know that the primary reason for providing navigation links is to:

1. “Guide your reader to where she wants to go, or to allow her to discover where she wants to go”.

True, but to what purpose? The whole point of this exercise is to promote your work/website is it not.

2. You also want to make it easier for your readers to find your work.

Am I correct? I think so.

For example, I provide a “Top Stories” navigation which provides an easy to read list of my previous posts, as opposed to having to scroll all the way down through my posts.

On your blog I notice that you provide a summary of your posts with a “Read more” link to the full post (once upon a time I did that myself). In fact you provide the same link twice in each post, and by your own standards don’t you think that is a little overkill? The point is, obviously our intentions are ultimately the same — to make it easier for readers to scroll to a post that interests them.

I prefer my method and I make no apologies for filling my sidebar with links ’cause that’s what it’s there for. So which method is better? I dunno for certain. Both methods have their pros and cons and I suppose it all comes down to a matter of personal preference does it not.

Do you see where I’m going here? The point I’m trying to make is ultimately the purpose of navigation is to lead the reader to your work. Ok, now let’s move on to some of your self-professed rants shall we.

You specifically gripe about “Blogrolls”:

“Why the hell would a list of your favorite sites be a good candidate for that prime piece of real estate?”

Nick, you miss the point entirely. We do it to raise our search engine awareness, and more specifically our pagerank (so long as we choose our links wisely in accordance with search engine rules).

By doing so we also create another side-benefit. We make our own little communities of bloggers who mutually support each other. So what “the hell” is wrong with that? Nothing from what I can see, especially if it is helping raise our search engine awareness, and not using a cheesy blogrolling javascript that can’t be read by the search engines.

You also mention “Links at the Bottom of Posts”:

The reason why I include links for adding posts to “social bookmarks” is to make it easier for my readers to promote MY site. Is that stupid? (Rhetorical question) I think not. It is smart.

The fact is most people on the internet are NOT all that technically savvy, so if a technology can be utilized to promote my work then I’m all for it. The “features” bells or whistles that I provide are strictly for purposes of self-promotion and to create a sense community. What’s so bad about that? Nothing (another rhetorical question).

But even more importantly, no matter how technically savvy you may think your readers may be, a gentle reminder here and there could pay off in huge dividends, and that is smart web design in my books. Even if it doesn’t (as they say) “nothing ventured is nothing gained”. So what’s the harm? Nothing (you guessed it - another rhetorical question).


I would agree that archive lists could use less “real estate” with the use of a simple script or link. They are obscure links with no explicit information or promotional value. One of these days when I find the time I will create a drop-down list. Does that make me an amateur? Probably more lazy than anything else. In the mean time — please don’t shoot me.

But I am curious as to what your deal is about “prime space”. I note that you have two columns — a sidebar beside a long list of posts, and yet most of the sidebar space isn’t even being used. So what are you saving it for? A rainy day? Or advertising perhaps?

Widgets and Gizmos:

I agree with you there. That stuff is ok for personal sites, but certainly not for professional or business sites.

“we think most of our readers are smart enough to be able to quickly copy a URL and paste it into their email client, so no “tell a friend” for us”

I don’t have such a link and personally I agree that is fairly useless. On the other hand I’m also reminded that anything that makes it easier for your readers to promote your site or jogs their memory is not a bad thing either. Nor would be so arrogant as to call it I “amateurish” or “stupid”. I mean really, aren’t you being just a little petty? I’m not going to condemn someone for wanting such a link.

It’s just a matter of personal preference and your intended audience. There are personal blogs, humor blogs, business blogs, niche blogs and so forth, and we can’t expect them all to adhere to one narrow vision of what a blog must look like.

Perhaps most of your readers really are computer savvy, but the fact is most internet users are NOT. It is up to so-called ‘pro’ bloggers to make sites an enjoyable experience, easy to use, and to guide readers towards our body of work. And any method of navigation or technology that helps to promote our work is a good thing and smart web design.

Bloke History 101: I started in the computer industry before anyone heard of Bill Gates or desktop computers, and I’ve been blogging long enough to know better than to take myself all that seriously. You might consider some of what I do as “amateurish” but you might also be accused of being boring (notice I said might :).

When I was a younger man practicing law I wouldn’t be caught dead in court without my best pin stripe suite. Now I roll in with a scruffy jacket and a tie my kids gave me for Christmas. My best advice to you is to lighten up a little and enjoy the ride (and God forbid maybe even throw in a script or two).

“Feature deprivation” can be as much a detriment as “feature creep”. In web design (excepting some basic concepts) there are few absolutes. It is as divergent as modern art itself.

It’s all about personal taste, your intended audience, balancing design and technology, and perhaps above all — assume that your readers are novices and make it easy for them to find your body of work.

Of course we’ve only scratched the surface here, so don’t get me going about flash or we’ll be here all night. And besides, I just can’t resist the geek in me. I’ll be sure to mention that to my shrink next session. ;-)


P.S.: I wanted to trackback your post Nick, but couldn’t find the link! Oh, and one more thing — lose the pictures on every post. I know y’all are a good looking bunch but it gets tedious. Just messin’ with ya :)

Written November 19th, 2005 by | 12 Comments | Filed under: Blog Tips, Design Tips, Favourite Blog Tips , , ,

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There are 12 Comments so far to “Web Design and Navigation, More or Less”

  1. As usual you are right on Bloke. That is why they call it web “design” What it all comes down to is it is a form of technology art, so who’s to say what is really right or wrong. Some of these wanna-be ‘experts’ are just a bunch of snobbish blow-hards trying to eke out a name for themselves.

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  2. Looks to me like they only started blogging just last month and probably the reason they’re ragging about Archives - ’cause they don’t have any to speak of.

    A bunch of snotty kids trying to elevate themselves at the expense of others that no better.

    Their posts also read text-bookish. Probably just finished school and plagiarizing their notes.

    They should take their heads out of “web pages that suck” and join the real world.

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  3. You are exactly right Bloke. Navigation is not just for making it easy for readers to go where they want to go. There has to be a purpose to web design, and navigation should also make it easy for readers to find YOUR work. Otherwise what is the point of blogging. And always assume your readers are novices. Two cornerstones of good web design.

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  4. Thanks for the comments everybody. I wouldn’t go so far as to disparage anybody for their opinion. We have to remember that nobody has all the answers and it still comes down to personal preference.

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  5. How to Change a Blogger Template Without Losing Sidebar Gadgets

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    Reply by: BLOGBloke at 5:31 am said...

    @Molly, it’s always a good practice to back up your code on your desktop before making changes.

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  6. Hi, this was worth coming across as navigation plays a big part in a website, Its always good to know how to use the navigation properly so thanks.

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    Reply by: BB at 6:38 pm said...

    @Anthony Ankers, thanks for dropping by.

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  7. I have always found that a simple navigation with a little logo beside the link really help liven them up and it also makes it prettier.

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  8. I had a browse around your website and to be honest I wasn’t confused or anything of that nature. In fact so far I have found navigating your site a good experience…. don’t change it!.

    PS. What was the name of the TV show you were watching about scammers?

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    Reply by: Blog Bloke (BB) at 10:56 am said...

    @Hadleigh, thanks for the compliment. Are you referring to my twitter comment about scammers?

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  9. @Molly, it's always a good practice to back up your code on your desktop before making changes. http://bit.ly/4BAbkp

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