Horizontal Lists Redux

I’ve updated the CSS used to generate horizontal navigational elements from unordered lists.

You can skip all the fanfare and check out the updated CSS (with new comments) here.

You’ll see this sort of thing in just about every one of my layouts. I like horizontal lists, they require very little vertical space. In layouts, I like to focus more on vertical space (one-dimensional thinking?) because I find myself not scrolling on web sites I’m visiting at random.

If I’m visiting a web site specifically looking for something, I’ll go through the whole process, scan the whole page, to find what I’m after.

But if I just get a link from a friend in an e-mail, or off a blog, I’m more prone to just load the page up, take in my first impression, and that’s about it. If I don’t see anything of real interest, I’m off. This usually means I don’t scroll down.

So a horizontal menu up at the top of your page can help bring some key links that are really important to getting at the information on your site to an area the user is most likely to see.

Now I talked a lot about my own browsing habits there and not about “general” browsing habits or what I might have seen in some usability study.

Thing is, I find one of the best sources for immediate information on browsing behavior is yourself. Not in very specific terms, such as a “find information about xxx on yyy website”. That sort of exercise is best suited for a good usability study where you pull people off the street and put them in front of a computer, with your website loaded up.

I’m talking in more general terms. What’s the first thing that catches my eye? How far into a page do I read before I go on. What parts of a page do I scan? Stuff like this can be taken from analyzing your own habits.

And I don’t mean while looking at the site you’re currently developing. That’s getting too specific (site specific). I’m talking about habits when you’re browsing the web at your leisure. Next time you’re just surfing the net for fun and not for work, try to take notice of how you handle pages you’re use to and comfortable with versus pages you’ve never seen before. Or try to simply recall your own experiences up to now. See if you can discover certain habits.

I find that a lot of these general habits tend to be shared and you can apply what you find to your own work in developing a website.

Now that’s not to say usability studies, peer reviews, etc.. are garbage. They are key tools in refining the shape of a layout or structure of a website. But you can get a little further in the process if, when developing your a site, you look at your design and examine how you treat other sites with similar layouts or elements within.

Just a thought.

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