It depends on which aspects of the Windows explorer you're using. The basic
two pane, hierarchy left/content right, has some merits for hypertext
design, and lots of web sites use it successfully (not to mention other
hypertext and software systems that used it before Windows did - I think
Superbook was one of the more prominent ones).

What I'd recommend avoiding are some of the complications of how the
hierarchy is displayed. Keep in mind that Windows explorer is not a core
part of the basic Windows UI - it was designed as a file management tool,
for the intermediate and advanced users that had heavy needs for file
management. The use of the +/- and expand/collapse behavior has always been
difficult for less experienced users to learn. Complex Hierarchies in
general are abstract concepts that many people difficult to follow. I don't
think the basic Windows explorer does a good job at making using hierarchies
easy - efficient perhaps, but not easy to learn.

Microsoft Bookshelf does a much better job at making complex hierarchies
easy to follow, using informative visuals and smarter layout, than the
windows explorer does. When we designed the IE explorer bars, we borrowed
some of these concepts (using one pixel borders to show the active folder,
removing the +/-, making everything single click, etc.).


-----Original Message-----
From: Louise Penberthy [mailto:[log in to unmask]]
Sent: Wednesday, June 07, 2000 6:47 AM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: is the Windows Explorer interface a good model for Web site

I'm working with a team to redesign the information architecture,
interface, and look and feel of a (homogeneous) set of Intranet sites at
work (RWD Technologies,, in case you're interested).

One team member is suggesting we model the navigation after the behavior
of Windows Explorer.  I think the purpose of the Windows Explorer is
sufficiently different from a general informational Web site that using
the Explorer navigation behavior may make users expect the site to
behave in a way that it won't.