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"ACM SIGCHI WWW Human Factors (Open Discussion)" <[log in to unmask]>
Hal Shubin <[log in to unmask]>
Sun, 27 Mar 2005 21:01:36 -0500
Hagan Rivers <[log in to unmask]>
Hagan Rivers <[log in to unmask]>
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On Mar 25, 2005, at 3:52 PM, Hal Shubin wrote:
> The top-level tab (eg, "Research" at the Fidelity site) is the menu 
> name. The second-level tabs that appear when you click on it (eg, 
> "Overview", "Watch list", ...) are the items on the menu. Fidelity 
> even does some nice magic so the submenu appears without a page reload 
> -- just like a menu!

Hal --

You raise an excellent point. In fact, I believe that menu bars really 
contain two kinds of commands: one group of commands apply specifically 
to objects that have been selected in the current document, list, 
drawing, what have you. Things like: cut, copy, paste, format font... 
or perhaps to the current view: sort by, show headers, etc. These are 
really contextual commands specific to the current screen and objects 
on the screen that have been organized into a hierarchical structure in 
the menu bar. And these are precisely the kind of commands that web 
applications have pulled out of menu bars and put physically near to 
the objects in question. And, in my mind, this is generally better 
design. I think menu bars are a poor choice for this - indirect, 
hidden, too curt... I totally agree with Cindy's observations on this.

The other kinds of commands in menu bars are commands that take the 
user to other windows - be they main windows or popup windows. So if 
you were in a mail program, they might be commands to open a message 
and view it, compose a new message, print, etc. These "commands" are, 
in web application parlance, navigating the application hierarchy... 
taking you to sub-command areas within the application. Most complex 
web applications are broken into a set of hierarchical screens, which 
are in turn shown to the user as tabs, menu bars, or simply by 
traversing link after link (and creating bread crumbs as you drill 

I've seen a lot of interesting representations for hierarchies, menu 
bars being one of them... Some seem to work better than others, so I 
would love to hear about Fidelity's experience if there's anyone here 
who can comment on it. Has anyone else used menu bars for navigation 
and had success? Failure?

This app is one I found a few days ago and I love the fact that's the 
designer has captured FIVE levels of hierarchy on the same page.

Alas, it doesn't use menu bars, but these are actually nested tabs... 
but each level is visualized so differently that they really don't feel 
like nested tabs. This design fascinates me, but then I collect web app 
designs rather obsessively.

   Hagan Rivers
   Two Rivers Consulting Corporation
   [log in to unmask]

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