Organizing and structuring are basic human fundamentals. Let’s face it, we are pretty darn good are categorizing and ordering things that have no apparent order. However, the internet has become a giant and we are swimming in it’s content. Humans don’t always categorize the same way as others do, which is why it is so important to understand the basic categorizing and organizing principles.
There are many different ways you can categorize something; alphabetically, chronological, by function, etc. The important thing about how you categorize is how people will infer your categorization, which means you need to make it easy for them to understand and predict. Don’t make your users think! Let’s take a look at 2 different shoe retail websites to break down how they categorize their navigational structure:
The first website I have chosen is www.payless .com, which is a company that sells various types of shoes. Using the LATCH principles, I believe that they have utilized “category” as their organizational schema. The primary navigation is categorized in such a way that it is grouped by individuals who would purchase the shoes. However, I must admit I am not entirely certain of the ordering of the elements. Perhaps, it is directly correlated with the most commonly visited sections. While it is a generalization, I would venture to guess women would be the most frequent visitor of the website. Of course, this order based on frequency would fade as we move the right. The secondary navigation is ordered by these vague categorizations of “Trend” and “Style”, but the subcategories of those shows a much more clear order using an alphabetical ordering.
The next website is www.shoecarnival.com, which is also a company that retails various types of shoes. Interestingly, this website has a very similar primary navigation structure as the previous website. Again, I assume it is based on frequency, as it does not seem that many other viable options exist. However, this website does have a significantly different secondary menu. Most of these items are found in the Payless website’s secondary navigation, but Shoe Carnival has reduced the number of total categories. While seeing that this categorization does not follow an obvious organization, I would also venture to assume it is also grounded on frequency.
As a final note, I believe that Shoe Carnival highlights a great fundamental concept that Payless does not have. Shoe Carnival provides additional browsing parameters based on categorizations like size, width, and color. They execute the options perfectly as it is not overwhelming to the user because all of the categories have less than 8 items (with the exception of size), unlike Payless where I had to scan through 14 different options under one section.
Do you see the actual difference in the quality of the organization? Hopefully, the websites do not change dramatically since I wrote this review, but it should help you understand how Shoe Carnival does a better job organizing the content. Think of ways that you can draft similar categorizations by making them more simple and intuitive for your user. Users do not particularly enjoy clicking a bunch of links in a blind fashion to find the content they want. They would prefer to feel that they are clicking the right link to get to the content they want on their first attempt.