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Oettl Sonja <[log in to unmask]>
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Oettl Sonja <[log in to unmask]>
Tue, 27 Nov 2007 19:21:23 +0100
text/plain (236 lines)
Sorry to answer as late - but I have rarely time to read the mailing list and I am not quite sure, if my informations are still helpfull. 
A solution, we used in our system ERIS (presented at, was semantic zooming in addition to normal zooming as interaction technique for the different treeviews which are offered by jeffrey heers prefuse. Semantic zooming means, that the more you zoom the more detailled information you get. The combination of both methods allows the user to have a closer look on one detail-level as well as gaining more information. 
If your Information Space contains deep hierarchies, you could use the nodes as small treemaps and use the interaction method described above. We also realized this in another project (which is not published yet).
Third tool I know is, which was presented at 

-----Ursprüngliche Nachricht-----
Von: ACM SIGCHI WWW Human Factors (Open Discussion) [mailto:[log in to unmask]] Im Auftrag von [log in to unmask]
Gesendet: Dienstag, 20. November 2007 15:46
An: [log in to unmask]
Betreff: C+S Alternative Navigation structures for a tree -> nicely formatted

Hello -

Here is the collection and summary with all responses to a question I posted a week ago on alternative UI structures to the tree.

Thanks to everyone who responded! Sorry for the messy format of my previous C+S of this posting - I made the mistake of sending it out from a Web browser.

Happy (American) Thanksgiving -



-----Original Message-----
From: ACM SIGCHI WWW Human Factors (Open Discussion) [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Kay Corry Aubrey
Sent: Friday, November 09, 2007 18:52
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Alternate navigation structures for a tree

Hi - I am wondering if people can suggest alternative Uis to a tree structure as a primary navigation method. The product has rich and deep functionality. It uses an Explorer-style tree for product navigation, and this presents a number of obstacles for users.

For one, they need to know the precise node to click to find their stuff, they can't see what is under the node and some of the information lies 4-5 levels down. Because everything is presented on the same plane so there is no indication on where to start. Using a tree in this context presents many other types of problems, though the tree's organization is very well thought out and seems appropriate to the domain.

We are going to offer multiple ways of navigating the product, search, by task, etc. However, it would be cool to also translate the existing tree into other navigational formats that are less overwhelming, offers more guidance, and can show users the range of choices they have for their task.
We will likely segment the taxonomy into facets.

Can people point me to examples on the web that are successful in presenting a complex taxonomy in a very simple UI that might spark ideas?
Please send your responses to me - I will collect and summarize.

Thanks -



You are welcome Kay, if you need anything just let me know (we have just rolled out a major change to our principal web site regarding Faceted Search. Ie. )  (KAY'S NOTE.... TAKE A LOOK AT THIS SITE!)

On Nov 20, 2007 12:12 AM, Kay Corry Aubrey <[log in to unmask]>

thanks Mario!

From: Mario E. Santoyo S. [mailto:[log in to unmask]]
Sent: Monday, November 19, 2007 3:11 PM
To: Kay Corry Aubrey
Subject: Re: Alternate navigation structures for a tree

Hi Kay,

Have you read upon Faceted Search Approaches?

it might help useful depending on your problem domain...


I have found working with trees in a mindmap format to be helpful. On my (Windows XP) desktop I use Freemind and recently started using comapping online. Being able to see labels located in close proximity to one another (a
facet-area) works for me as a way to quickly scan elements of a collection and get a feel for relationships.


Michael Everitt



I have found working with trees in a mindmap format to be helpful. On my (Windows XP) desktop I use Freemind and recently started using comapping online. Being able to see labels located in close proximity to one another (a
facet-area) works for me as a way to quickly scan elements of a collection and get a feel for relationships.


Michael Everitt


Hello Kay,

I'm dealing with the same problem, and I'd love to hear what responses you get. A big question is of course how much information is contained in each node, and how much of it you always want to display.

One (space-consuming) visualization that I think you could use to traverse a tree of 4-5 levels is presented in a series of articles for the weblog "Boxes and Arrows":
(more articles upcoming, I believe)

These articles talk about creating a multi-level portal-style (or
'dashboard') GUI based on the idea of containers within containers. A container in this context is (in descending order of size): a Web site, a Web site section, a page, a large box on a page (such as a content area or a sidebar area), and a small box on a page (something the size of one weblog entry or news article, for example). Containers share common controls, such as 'print', 'search' or 'send by e-mail'.

It occurred to me that you could use these various containers to represent the different levels of a hierarchical tree, offering a way of navigating through the hierarchy that is both familiar and natural to users. Also, typically, the deepest nodes in a tree contain the most information, which this model provides for.

The problem is that this visualization can take up a lot of space, which may force you to place the contents of a node into a separate browser window, or otherwise force you to separate the navigation from the content. As I said, it really depends on the amount of information contained in each node.

Hope this helps,

Mathijs Panhuijsen


Thanks for this, I can provide a URL:

Check under 'Is this the right control?'

This section does conclude, however:

"You must use a tree view if you need to display a hierarchy of more = than two levels (not including the root node)."

I personally don't agree with that statement. I feel that hierarchy is = often fairly artificial to the user (even if they do know directory = trees), and more a type of structure that software developers are = comfortable with. It's also often unrelated to actual conceptual = taxonomy.


From: Lorenzo Pastrana [mailto:[log in to unmask]]=20

Sent: Saturday, November 10, 2007 12:18 PM

To: Kay Corry Aubrey

Subject: Re: Alternate navigation structures for a tree

Hi Kay,

There is a nice article on MS website (can't provide an url right now) = on alternatives to treeviews, I think it's in the vista design guidelines.

Basicaly it states that you can browse a tree (witch is a list of lists = of lists of...) using a list+content view at each level.

The main advantage, as I understood it, is the abscence of the unique display/choice paradigm that you face in the treeview.

Using a simple list and content pane at each level (you can nest a = couple of

levels if needed) allows you to use a variety of typologic, topologic, = and graphical solutions to convey a particular meaning depending on each case/level/node etc. Thus getting users to travese some initial levels without even thinking they are.

Of course that 'magic' only operates if those levels are designed to be 'usage oriented' :

I think however, that you might get to question the tree itself in the = end ... Is the tree 'object-centric' or is it 'usage-centric' ? My = conception of

a taxonomy (as you say) is that it works well in the definition-domain = and that it's a good way to represent entities in memory on a computer or

programmer point of view. But on a usage point of view, you would = organize access to the entities in a different way.

I'd dare an example : in a car's physical taxonomy the tree root would = be the chassis, branching down to the tires, pedals and door handles; but = on a usage point of view who would ever think of the chassis in the first = place ?

My 2 cents.




I believe that there are several alternatives to a blasphemous tree view

1. Content Links

By providing content links, users can easily scan information. This also increases efficiency as the clicking effort is reduced as compared to = tree view navigation.=20

According to GOMS methodology <> , the number of clicks needed to gain information should be at its minimal.=

2. Dashboard View

A page with the top level navigation links displayed upfront will = definitely help users gain momentum before they step into it deeper. The = disadvantage that tree view provides is the fact that it confuses users with too many structures upfront. By providing a page with the key links upfront, = users will not be overwhelmed as they see a clean layout that describes = content.

3. Keep It Simple

Keep it simple. That's the key. The language used in most tree view structures often make users cringe as they are already overwhelmed by = its length and depth. Keeping the language simple will help users gain a = better understanding of what's happening and also a clear welcoming feeling = before they begin looking for information.=20

The greatest fear that users face is when they encounter a navigation structure that contains sub-level navigation within the top level = navigation at the same place. Users need a distinction between the two. So separate = it for them.

4. Use Horizontal Space

Tree views often take up space vertically and not horizontally. This = adds to the confusion as users move in one direction with too many nodes being displayed. To allow breathing space, try using space horizontally.
To = ensure this happens, we need to replace a tree view structure with content = links as mentioned above.=20

5. Abuse Fitts's Law=20

Fitts's Law <'_law>  "predicts the = time required to rapidly move to a target area, as a function of the distance = to the target and the size of the target." Knowing this, a tree view = structure is a definite no-no! By providing content links, users can not only = target it easily, but they can also view them upfront rather than having to move through sub categories at the same place.=20

Here are my observations without examples from the web. I'm sure someone = else can contribute to this as I would love to receive them as well. :-)



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