Thoughts on website/app functionality and user expectations – Part 1: Navigation

Posted on September 14, 2013

 

With apps now an everyday part of many people’s lives, could it be time for websites to take the lead from their designers when it comes to the building of mobile/tablet versions of their websites, using media selectors and other methods to identify mobile and tablet users, and offering an interface more familiar to them?

Given the ubiquitous nature of smartphones and the importance of designing and adapting a website for them, it brings about the question of navigation. Traditionally a tab bar (top horizontal bar) list of pages was the standard for most designs; even those that favoured the navigation to the side of the content would still have them as a vertical list that seemed intricate to the design of the site.

Pop culture

A common method of navigation and control used in apps for various devices is the popout sidebar. This appears over the content and provides a list of possible actions or places to navigate. Styled in the theme of the app, it is presented as an overlay or separate part of the content itself. This behaviour seems quite intuitive and begs the question of whether it should it be brought into the web when a site is presented on a tablet or mobile.

Often, when the site is presented on a mobile, it hides the navigation into a single button that will ‘pop up’ the list when pressed. This is a close analogue to the sidebar popup, but it’s not always immediately obvious to the user that this is the case.

Rolling everything into one

Following the lead of apps when it comes to web design for mobile and tablet devices might give a website an edge over others, giving the smartphone and tablet user a more familiar interface and mimicking the behaviour of commonly used applications. Rather than just resizing or adjusting the layout of a website, it might be worth looking at changing the entire functionality of it.

With HTML 5, CSS3, media selectors and powerful JavaScript libraries available, this is not beyond any web designer’s capabilities and could be the next step for the major retailers. It would negate the need for a specific ‘app’ and make their website an all-in-one portal for any device, helping it to adapt to the needs and expectations of the user.

Steven

Steven is Engage Web’s go-to man for all things web-related, bringing his knowledge of current trends in web design and development to the team.

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