I believe it important that you, as a user, can build and retain a mental
map of where you have navigated, so that you don't get "lost in hyperspace".
Three things concern me about current web site and web application design:
1. There is a common custom to have a large page with links from one
part to another part. When you follow such a link, you may not realise
that you are still on the same page, and that "back" on the browser keeps
you on that page. If you have a mental map of the site as a tree
with pages as nodes and leaves, then that map is liable to become confused.
2. It is very common, particularly with search engines, to have a "next"
and "previous" buttons, which keep you not in the same page but in the
same list, and therefore at the same logical level. When you use "back"
on the browser, you are taken up to the top of the list before you are
taken out of the list to where you were before. While you are doing this,
you are liable to forget your mental map, particularly with nested searches.
3. I have come across some web applications that have their own
"home" and "back" buttons. These may have different affects from using
the equivalent buttons on your browser. Thus the browser tree that is
built up is not kept consistent with your use of "back" , "forward" and
"home". And, if you have tried to align your mental map to the browser map,
you may become confused.
Is there a way to design a site or application such as to avoid this
kind of confusion? With respect to (1) and (3) should we avoid:
* linking to same page;
* providing alternative navigation to that of the browser?
And, with respect to (2), should there be a special navigation system
for lists that is separate from navigation along links?
And are there other things to do and not to do, such that your mental map
is well-formed, and subsequently kept in tact, while you browse the web?
Cheers from Chiswick,
Access the word, access the world Tel/fax +44 181 742 3170/8715
John Nissen Email to [log in to unmask]
Cloudworld Ltd., Chiswick, London, UK http://www.tommy.demon.co.uk