Choose your own adventure

1 December, 2011    

Navigation helps users to do two things – find content and explore.

Content isn’t bound to a single platform these days. Good brands are really content producers – they tell stories about themselves so that audiencescan buy into their values and get a better understanding of why they should connect with them. And audiences connect with content online, sometimes via TV, through their radio and on their mobile devices. Audiences can interact with brands wherever they are, so navigation needs to be designed for content, for your audience and for the devices they use.

Creating information architecture and the interfaces which expose it is always about negotiating the needs and priorities of the organisation that owns the content and the audience that own their individual experiences as they access it.

Technology has changed the way content is shared with audiences. TVs are about to get a lot more interactive. If you’ve ever tried to use a remote control to find a YouTube video on a TV, or tried to search content on a games console, it’s clear there are many challenges and lessons to learn to serve content efficiently in a converging media world. EPGs don’t afford very rich experiences, and aren’t great at surprising you with the serendipitous. Mobile devices offer smaller screen sizes and an emerging range of gestures and interactions for the user to control and construct their experience. All users have limited time, patience, buttons or gestures when they’re finding, exploring and consuming content. Navigation always needs to work, and it needs to work hard so that the user doesn’t have to.

Navigating content should feel intuitive and rewarding – the longer it goes on, the easier and more valuable it should become. I like navigation that makes a story of your visit to the website or sites I help to create. These stories aren’t just about the content, they’re also about the links.

I like to think of navigation as the options at the bottom of the pages of a ‘choose your own adventure’ story – the story might be different every time, but the experience will always be coherent and compelling.

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