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Site Graphics and Multimedia Design Forum

Tabbed Navigation
What are the pros and cons

 9:36 pm on Feb 26, 2003 (gmt 0)

I want to create a website with a tabbed navigation on top (Examples: mysql site, amazon ...). Personally I like this navigation a lot but I'm asking myself if there are any problems with that kind of navigation by design.

So if you've something to say about that Issue, please post. Wether it's pro or con. Thanks.



 9:41 pm on Feb 26, 2003 (gmt 0)

Dont' see much problem with it. It's a pretty well established format and if you provide text alternatives elsewhere on the page it should work well.

That's assuming you make no blunders with the actual gfx though, but I'll leave that bit to the gfx experts ;)



 9:44 pm on Feb 26, 2003 (gmt 0)

I use text and CSS [w3.org] only tabbed navigation on a lot of sites. Works like a charme and people are used to that navigation method. Go ahead.



 9:47 pm on Feb 26, 2003 (gmt 0)

Hakre, it's just personal preference, but my eye tends to skate over the horizontal tabs. I'm not sure why, but perhaps I'm mentally including the tabs in the general category of "junk at the top of the page I don't have to look at" like banners, logos, etc. Or maybe they just don't stand out because they appear to be part of the graphic design. My eyes definitely seek out a vertical navbar, preferably at the left.

One other possible explanation for my peculiar behavior is that a vertical navbar requires less eye motion to scan multiple listings. One or more rows of tabs requires more side-to-side eye scrolling.

I like tabbed designs in concept, but (because of my personal dislike for them) rarely use them. I assume Amazon has tested this concept, however, and they must work at least as well as other approaches.


 9:58 pm on Feb 26, 2003 (gmt 0)

thanks for the fast answers guys. ;)

andreas, do you have to a concept for the text/css navigation thingies? i'm very interested in the possibility to click not only the whole text of alink but also the div/span/td where the text is placed in. i think this is a good concept.


 10:49 pm on Feb 26, 2003 (gmt 0)

Have a look at the site in my profile.

>>to click not only the whole text of alink but also
>>the div/span/td where the text is placed in

Just increase the padding of the link to increase the area where users might click.



 10:51 pm on Feb 26, 2003 (gmt 0)

Tabs are very user friendly IMHO. I've found that all levels of users understand them well, and since it's such a common metaphor there's familiarity as well.


 8:54 am on Feb 28, 2003 (gmt 0)

hi jamesa - thanks for your comment.

if found an article about this, it's quite old (nov 1999), but has an interesting theory on navigation tabs: When Bad Design Elements Become the Standard [useit.com]. navigation tabs is listed as one if this.

the author thinks so, because the tab concept should return the same object in a different kind of view. so only view changes and not the content.

nevertheless, i don't think that's true. even the gui of any operation system doesn't use tabs in that kind of manner. nor the phonebook or folders in the office.

it would be great to have some more specific arguments against navigation tabs at all ;).

added: i forget to mention that it's an article of jakob nielsen, the selfnamed priest of web usability ;)


 1:00 pm on Feb 28, 2003 (gmt 0)

I would have to agree with ole Jakob that tabs should be dealing with an object, process, or subsection. I am not sure that I have ever liked tabbed navigation for the main navigation of the site, unless you have large subsections that are the only tabs you use. I have no problem with sites that use them in an area to have multiple views of an "objects" information. I even use it on my site. I do think that it is well understood. IMHO, I am not sure that total site navigation should be tabbed, unless like amazon a site has large subsections.

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