The 7 Navigation types for IA

Japanese version here

We have developed a pattern system for designing site navigations. This system contains seven navigation types and three area definitions. This system applies for any standard sites such as a company’s site, and basic EC sites.

We have categorized the links of standard sites into seven types by usage. And we have prepared three areas to allocate these navigations.
On this system, navigations (semantic structure and function) and area definitions (presentation) are independent. Therefore this system is clear, easy to use and flexible.
This system helps information architects to build a consistent navigation policy. And this system would be also useful for learning how to design navigation systems.

A. 7 Navigation types
1. Site Structure Navigation

  • This navigation shows the site structure and allows users to move along with the site structure.
  • Usually the first layer items of the site structure appear on the Global Navigation Area. The other items appear on the Local Navigation Area and the Local Content Area.

2. Function Navigation

  • This navigation leads users to the site’s functional pages.
  • Usually it appears on the Global Navigation Area (header and/or footer).
  • e.g. Sitemap link, privacy policy link.

3. Direct Navigation

  • This navigation leads users to some pages directly.
  • Usually it appears on the top page of the site and on the Local Content Area.
  • e.g. Ad banner, shortcut link.

4. Reference Navigation (Hypertext Reference)

  • This navigation leads users to related contents and/or related pages of the current content.
  • Usually it appears as linked text on the Local Content Area or the Local Navigation Area.

5. Dynamic Navigation

  • This navigation generates dynamic result pages.
  • e.g. Search form.

6. Breadcrumb Navigation

  • This navigation shows the location of the user and allows users to go back to the upper layer.

7. Step Navigation

  • This navigation shows a sequence of pages and the location, and it allows users to move to the previous, next and any other pages.
  • e.g.

B. 3 Area definitions
1. Global Navigation Area

  • Present on every page throughout a site.
  • Navigations appear as buttons and/or text links.
  • Usually the header area and the footer area are used for this.

2. Local Navigation Area

  • Areas that have navigations for each page.
  • Usually left side area or right side area are used for this.

3. Local Content Area

  • Areas that have the contents of each page.
  • Navigations appear as text links, buttons, and various format.


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