NAVIGATION

Becker (2004) lists navigation as one of many design obstacles that older users face when using the web. As we age, our ability to learn new tasks, especially those involving unfamiliar technology, diminishes. To the extent that these abilities diminish varies from one person to another, but many studies have shown that all are affected to some degree. Website navigation needs to be made simple and obvious in order for elderly users to succeed in their virtual endeavors. Kurniawan and Panayiotis (2005) suggest five principles for good navigational structures: Extra and bolder navigation cues should be provided; clear navigation should be provided; provide location of the current page; avoid pull-down menus; and do not use a deep hierarchy and group information into meaningful categories. "Making your Website Senior Friendly" (2002) adds to that list a need to keep navigational structures identical (as much as possible) throughout the site.

screen shot of cheers and gears dot com

Take a look at the homepage for Cheers and Gears. There is no clear navigational hierarchy presented on this page. The top left navigation bar contains links to general areas of the website, but then the designers included several other areas with links. Due to the nature of using a screen shot for the image of the page, only two of the other navigational areas can be seen; please visit the site to view the page in its entirety. Because there are so many links on the home page, it is unclear as to where the pages are actually located. While having links to almost every page in the site on the home page might seems like an easy way to provide better access, the multitude of links (especially in small font) could potentially overwhelm an elderly user who is new to the internet. As evidenced by this example, limit the number of navigational links on the home page of your site. If it is absolutely necessary to include more then one set of navigational links, make sure they are clearly marked and separated. If your site has a fairly deep hierarchy, do not include links to deeply-buried pages on the home page. Doing so may confuse the user about the structure of the site.

Becker (2004) discusses a usability study in which several guidelines were used in evaluating health-related websites. These guidelines included whether a website contained a sitemap and whether a site used pull-down menus for navigational purposes. Sitemaps should be included for all complex websites. This gives users a visual representation of the navigation hierarchical structure in which the site operates. Avoid using pull-down menus and especially multiple pull-down menus, because these types of navigational tools can be difficult to understand without prior experience.