First, devise a sensible organizational structure. Keep the
number of sections down to something you can display in the space
available, and name the sections well -- make them meaningful to
the user, don't use too many words, and follow whatever
conventions are appropriate (such as "About Us" or "Products").
As for the global navigation panel, design a single panel that
looks the same -- and goes into the same place -- on each page where
it appears. On the Web, that should be every page (with the notable
exception of applications using a Hub and Spoke structure).
A desktop UI has far fewer conventional uses of such a thing,
but it should probably go into every major application window (not
every dialog box). A good global navigation panel is
one component of a well-designed
Visual Framework (see Chapter 4).
To show where the user is now, simply make the link for the current
section look different from the others. Use a contrasting color,
perhaps, or an unobtrusive graphic like an arrow.
One design issue that you may run into, especially on web pages,
is how to present this kind of navigational device along with
other sets of links. They ought to be distinct from one another.
Users may look to the top of the page for the global navigation;
that leaves the left- and righthand sides for other links, or you
could put them in the content area itself. You could also use two
very different sets of affordances -- simple clickable text for
the toplevel navigation, and tabs for more "local" things, for
As with Center Stage, remember that home
pages and main windows may require different layouts than other pages
in the UI. If getting to the different sections of the UI is a
purpose of the home page or opening window, then global
navigation may need to be more prominent than everywhere
else, and you might want to flesh it out with details or sublinks.
Finally, understand that not every user will use, or even notice,
a navigational device like this. Engineers and designers share a
common misconception that users will logically look for
the overview first, then decide where to go. They won't. They
often don't care to know how the site or UI is organized, but
simply follow the nearest and most obvious signposts until they
find what they need (this is called Satisficing; see
Chapter 1.) It's analogous to someone looking for the restrooms
in an airport -- they probably won't bother reading a map
if there are signs or architectural clues.