Book Review - Designing Web Navigation: Optimizing the User Experience by James Kalbach
The ability to navigate a web site can make or break your user's experience. I learned far more than I thought even existed in the book Designing Web Navigation: Optimizing the User Experience by James Kalbach. It's obviously more than just putting a list of links down the left side of the screen...
Part 1 - Foundations of Web Navigation: Introducing Web Navigation; Understanding Navigation; Mechanisms of Navigation; Types of Navigation; Labeling Navigation
Part 2 - A Framework for Navigation Design: Evaluation; Analysis; Architecture; Layout; Presentation
Part 3 - Navigation in Special Contexts: Navigation and Search; Navigation and Social Tagging Systems; Navigation and Rich Web Applications
If you tend to think more like a developer than a designer, then you pretty much think that a list of navigation links are all you need. Uh, no... Kalbach has compiled a wealth of information here that spans both the theory and the practice of web navigation. Rather than just say "do this, this, and this", he starts off with the foundational theory behind how people think about getting around a web site. Once that's presented, you have the proper grounding to start looking at particular types. The chapter on navigation mechanisms lays out all the different options, such as step-type navigation, paging-type navigation, tree navigation, and more. Classifying the different types in your mind helps to figure out when you might want to consider options like tabbed navigation over breadcrumb trails. By the time you've gone through the book, there's little you haven't covered on the topic.
I also appreciated the way the book is designed. O'Reilly went with a full-color layout, which means that all the websites Kalbach uses for examples accurately reflect his points. Black and white just wouldn't cut it here. Also, the edges of the pages are color-coded by chapter, so it makes it very easy to find the particular chapter you're looking for. I always have a better feeling about a design book when the book's design is high quality. In this case, I felt very good...
This really should be on the reading list of anyone who designs websites that go more than one page deep. Not only will you design better sites, but your users will thank you.