Navigation hinderances in help

Powazek writes about web navigation basics and points out that navigation is really about communicating with the reader. He says that navigation should communicate the past, present, and future in the forms of answering "Where have I been?," "Where am I now?," and "Where can I go from here?" I don't think everything that Powazek recommends applies to onscreen help. Users who are looking for task-based help have different needs than those who are just browsing. 

However, there are some key points that all help authors should keep in mind. The navigation links you use communicate a model of the information structure to your users. That model doesn't have to reflect the physical reality of how your help is organized, but it's difficult for writers to separate reality from what users really need to know. One way to ensure you're on the right track is to ask how your navigation furthers the goal of users overcoming their impasse. If it only gives "nice to know" information then it might only be adding noise and serving to distract (or confuse) your customers. As Powazek says, "think before you link."

Posted: September 8, 2006 link to this item, Tweet this item, respond to this item