• Create BookmarkCreate Bookmark
  • Create Note or TagCreate Note or Tag
  • PrintPrint



A web-based peer-to-peer networking system that allows users to access and share songs in an MP3 format. Napster was the subject of much controversy because it enabled people to download commercial music without payment. A number of American court rulings, which threatened to close Napster down, have seen it introduce software to filter out commercial music. Napster has indicated that it will include a payment system.


Initial capital letter only. The Nasdaq Stock Market is the US stock exchange that specializes in technology companies. (Note that Nasdaq is no longer an acronym.)


Navigation is the process by which a reader moves through the Web. Strictly speaking there are two basic ways to navigate: by clicking links and by using a search process. However, navigation generally refers to the process of clicking links, with search being treated as a distinct activity. The navigation of a website refers to the set of links the website has. See search.

If content is the heart of every website publication, then navigation is its brain. When dealing with large quantities of content, the critical importance of quality navigation cannot be overestimated. Content that can’t be found can’t be read.

Navigation is a website’s table of contents. In a traditional publication you have page numbering to help you navigate. You can hold the publication in your hands and flick through it. If it’s a large publication, there is usually an index at the back.

You can’t hold a website in your hands. You can’t get an immediate sense of its size or complexity. You navigate a website one screen at a time. That can prove to be very disorientating—it’s easy to get confused, to get lost. A reader who gets lost or confused in this attention-deficit economy is likely to hit the Back button. Thus, creating a navigation system that makes the reader feel comfortable and allows them to find the content they want quickly is critical to the success of any website.

Many of the most popular websites (Yahoo, Amazon, eBay) are like directories. Their strength lies in how quickly they can help readers find what they came looking for. It’s important to understand that navigation is never the end objective for the reader. It is there to facilitate the reader getting someplace. Navigation works best when the reader hardly knows that it’s there. Thus navigation design should always be simple, direct, unadorned, with the overriding objective of helping the reader get to where they want to go.

A trend in Web navigation is to allow the reader to “personalize” the website. Regular readers will have repeated “paths” to specific content areas. Personalization allows them, among other things, to “shorten” those paths. For example, if they like sport, personalization will allow them to bring their favorite sports links onto the homepage. See personalization.

Navigation and classification are very much intertwined. Where classification is the science of developing a logical order for how content is organized, navigation is the art of presenting the most intuitive and commercial paths through the content for the reader. Navigation is “commercial” in the sense that it will want to point the reader toward areas of the website where the organization can derive most value from the reader visiting. Classification can sometimes be too obscure, but while navigation is more intuitive, it can be too much determined by what you’re trying to sell. A balance must be achieved between the two, and keeping the reader’s needs as the driving force for both is crucial. While the classification is designed first, it should not be designed in isolation.

Navigation and search are intertwined. Strictly speaking, search is a form of navigation. In many situations, the reader will use a combination of the search function and some navigation options. Remember, most readers are content gatherers. They will use a search to bring them to the subject area or product type they are interested in. Then the navigation should kick in, giving them the context for their search.

Navigation design requires detailed planning. Once launched, it is not something that should be chopped and changed on a whim. You should treat your navigation and classification as if they were written in stone because otherwise you risk confusing your regular readers (customers), something you should avoid at all costs. People are by nature habitual and conservative. If every couple of months you change the structure and navigation of your website, you will risk alienating those who are regular visitors and have got used to your previous navigation and structure.

Outlined here are some of the main navigation design principles:

  • Design for the reader: The fundamental principle of navigation design is that you should design for the reader and not for purely aesthetic or organizational reasons. To do this successfully, you need reader feedback from day one. Involve the reader by surveying or interviewing them with regard to how they would like to navigate the content. Create mock-ups of the navigation as early as possible and show them to a sample of readers to get feedback.

  • Provide a variety of navigation options: If everyone wanted to navigate through content in the same way, the job of the navigation designer would be a lot easier. Unfortunately, it’s not that simple.

    Studies have shown that different readers have different ways they like to navigate around a website. Thus, to facilitate a variety of readers and their navigation requirements, a range of navigation options should be offered.

    Navigation options include the following: classification path, core, document, drop-down, ecommerce, global, homepage, language/geographic, personalization, progress chart, related, URL. (See separate listed entries on these options for specific guidelines.)

    To deliver a wide variety of navigation options to the reader, an approach of multiple classification of content is required. The Dell website uses multiple classification well. A notebook computer is classified under “Notebooks & Desktops” on the homepage. However, if the reader has clicked on “Home & Office,” they will be presented with a link to “Notebooks” on the Home & Office homepage. Notebooks are also classified by country (United States, Germany, Ireland, and so on). This multiple classification allows Dell to provide readers with a wide variety of navigation options (see www.dell.com). Dell offers a variety of navigation options: global at the top of the page (which includes ecommerce navigation); language/geographic in a drop-down underneath the logo; and two views of the core navigation—product at the bottom, and customer segment on the right.

  • Let the reader know where they are: Navigation should give the reader a clear and unambiguous indication of what page of the website they are on. Web navigation is like a cross between a map and a system of signposts. Imagine you are on vacation and you are looking at a map in a town square. If the map is well designed, one of the most prominent features will be a “You are here” indicator. CNN supports the reader very well in this regard. For example, if you find yourself on the CNN entertainment page, you will see in bold capitals in the masthead the word “ENTERTAINMENT.”

    Although navigation should generally be presented as hypertext, where it is in graphical form the classification name that describes the page the reader is on should be a different design than the other classifications in the navigation. For example, let’s say you are on the homepage of a particular website. The “Home” classification in the global navigation should have a slightly different design than the other classifications in that navigation, thus indicating to the reader that they are on that particular page. (This classification should also be unlinked, because otherwise the link will loop to the same page.)

  • Let the reader know where they’ve been: A fundamental principle of Web navigation design is to let the reader know where they’ve been on the website. That is the key reason for having as much of the navigation as possible in hypertext rather than in graphical form. With hypertext when a link is clicked it changes color. The reader can then know what sections of the website they have visited. This will happen automatically if the navigation is presented as text-based hypertext.

    The standard colors for hypertext are blue for unclicked and purple for clicked. Avoid changing these colors. Remember, navigation should always represent the familiar.

  • Let the reader know where they are going: Navigation should let the reader know where they are going. The obvious way to achieve this is to create navigation classifications that are as self-descriptive as possible. Avoid building navigation based on obscure classifications that are familiar to those who work for the organization but not to the general public, unless, of course, your target readership is organization staff.

    No matter how well the basic navigation is designed, there will be times when it requires extra support to achieve greater clarity for the reader. There are a number of ways to achieve this greater clarity:

    - If the reader clicks a link, they expect to go to an HTML page. If it’s a non-HTML page, or a password-protected area, inform them in advance. Tell them they will require a password. Tell them they are linking to an audio file, and so on. Tell them the size of that file. Link to a copy of the software to listen to that file, just in case they don’t have a copy.

    - Don’t open new browser windows for a reader unless there is a compelling reason. There usually isn’t.

    - Change the color of the link when the mouse rolls over it. This is helpful when there are a lot of links close together. Because the link changes color, the reader knows exactly the link they are about to select.

    - Have a drop-down navigation showing lower levels of the classification when the mouse rolls over a particular link. The benefit here is that it allows the reader to jump deeper into the website if they so wish.

    - Where the reader is asked to participate in a process, such as purchasing a product online, progress chart navigation can be helpful. This navigation shows the reader how many stages there are in the process, and where they stand in that process. See progress chart navigation.

    - If the hypertext link is not quite as descriptive as it should be, put in link title text to give the reader more background.

  • Provide context: In a world of 550 billion documents, context is essential. Studies show that in the majority of cases, the reader does not know exactly what content they need. If they do, they will invariably turn to a search process, which offers them the quickest way to get to a particular document.

    Navigation, on the other hand, gives the reader context. It presents content that interconnects. It guides the reader and informs them of content that the organization has that the reader might not have been aware of. This is what context is all about and it’s what great navigation does in a seamless, easy-to-follow way.

    For navigation to provide the best possible context, ensure that all content is properly classified, use related navigation that at the end of a document gives links to similar documents, and allow for a variety of product/section homepages that publish the most relevant and positive content for that particular product or section.

  • Be consistent: Readers particularly turn to navigation when they’re confused or lost. Don’t confuse them even more by displaying inconsistent or unfamiliar navigation design. For example, if you decide to put the core navigation in the left column, don’t then switch it to the right column in another section of the website.

    Consistency of classification is critical for successful navigation. This involves agreeing a content classification that eliminates all duplication and is rigidly adhered to. For example, don’t classify a link “Home” in one section of your website and “Homepage” in another section. That only serves to confuse the reader. Establish the classification names at the beginning and use them exactly as you have defined in a consistent manner.

    Consistency of visual navigation design is equally important. Let’s say your global navigation is in graphic form, and you’ve used red buttons with white text for it on the homepage. This design should remain the same throughout the entire website. If you choose blue and purple for your hypertext navigation, don’t change these colors in different sections of your website.

    Navigation design requires consistent classification, consistent graphical navigation design, and consistent hypertext color use.

  • Follow Web convention: Many people instinctively see the Web as a single medium. They like to carry over navigation skills that they acquire on one website to other websites. In this sense, the more similar the navigation of your website is to other websites, the easier it is for the reader to get around your website, based on their experience.

    Over time a number of navigation conventions have emerged on the Web. The designer who deliberately avoids these conventions to be different achieves nothing except confusion for the reader. Confusing the reader is the last thing quality navigation design should do.

    Here’s a selection of navigation and classification conventions that have emerged on the Web. It is highly recommended to follow them:

    - Global navigation. This is navigation that runs across the top and bottom of every page, containing links to the major sections of that website. The convention is to begin the global navigation with a “Home” classification. Other commonly used classifications include “About” and “Contact.” (See global navigation.)

    - The classification name “Home” is the convention for the name of the overall homepage. Sometimes, in very large websites that have a number of sub-sites, the main homepage is called after the name of the organization, such as Microsoft.com, or zdnet.com.

    - The classification name “About” contains content describing the history, financial performance, business focus, mission statement, etc. of the organization. Sometimes it’s used in conjunction with the name of the organization. For example, “About Microsoft.”

    - The classification name “Contact” or “Contact Us” contains contact details such as email, telephone, physical address, and map location details.

    - The classification name “Feedback” is used to encourage feedback from the reader.

    - The organization’s logo should appear on every page. It should be placed in the top left of the page and should be linked back to the homepage.

    - Where there is core navigation in the body of the page, place it in the left column.

    - The name for the search facility on a website is “Search.” The button or link that will initiate the search should be labeled “Search.” Search should also be initiated if the reader presses the Return key. The term for more sophisticated search options is “Advanced search.”

    - The search box should be available on every page of the website. It should be placed in the top right-hand corner of the page, or near the top left, underneath the logo.

    - Every page should have a footer, containing global navigation as hypertext, contact, terms of use, copyright, and privacy links.

    - The colors for hypertext are blue for unclicked, purple for clicked.

    - If the reader clicks a link they expect that they will be brought to an HTML page. If it’s anything else, such as an audio file, inform them in advance.

  • Don’t surprise or mislead the reader: Never bring the reader down a particular navigation path only to lead them to something they do not expect. For example, there are websites where you navigate through a set of links in one language, only to arrive at a document that is in an entirely different language. And it is not uncommon, particularly with American websites, to go through a purchase process to find that the company only ships to the United States. If such a situation is the policy, inform the reader as early as possible in the process in clear, visible, and prominent language.

Navigation design checklist
  Yes No
Reader designed

Reader survey

Reader usability tests
Navigation options

Classification path









Progress chart


You are here

Prominent page titles

Changed navigation colors
You’ve been there Blue/purple hyperlinks  
You’re going here

Non-HTML page identification

New browser window identification

ALT text

Link color change

Proper classification

Product/section homepages

Consistent classification

Consistent graphical design

Consistent hypertext colors

Global navigation on every page

Home, About, and Contact links in global navigation

Home link first

Basic search on every page

Basic search top right, or near top left, underneath logo

Linked logo on every page

Footer on every page
No surprises

No false navigation paths

Exceptions prominently highlighted

No impossible options

neither … nor

When neither and nor link singular terms, use a singular verb. When they link a singular and a plural, use a plural verb.

Neither Tom nor Harry is here.

Neither Tom nor his brothers are here.


Abbreviation for Internet, no apostrophe, always capped.

See also [Internet]


Netiquette (from etiquette) is a largely unwritten code for behavior on the Internet. An example of netiquette is keeping your email signature to five lines or less. One of the golden rules of netiquette is not to reply to an email in anger. It’s very easy to write a quick response to an email. Always count to 10 before firing off that angry email.


A network is an interconnected set of computers. The Internet is a network. The essence of a network is that it allows individuals and organizations to communicate and share information over a common computer-based medium.

new economy

Also known as the information economy, the new economy is fast changing, youthful, digital-based, Internet-driven, networked, information-fueled, and IPO-focused (doesn’t have to make a profit). The new economy is looking slightly jaded since the market downturn that began in 2000. However, despite all the hype, there is indeed a new economy emerging that will in time radically alter how the citizens of this world work, play, and learn.


A newsgroup is a pre-Web environment that allows people to discuss issues of interest in an open forum. Newsgroups can be described as an early example of online communities. In the early nineties, newsgroups were very popular, but they became less so as the Web grew. Many newsgroups were replaced by Web-based discussion boards.

See also [discussion boards]

newspaper names

See [italics]
no one

Two words, singular.


One word.

non-HTML documents

When readers click a link, they expect to be sent directly to an HTML text page. If instead they are going to initiate the download of an audio, video, PDF, or other non-HTML document, they need to be informed upfront. Also, if they are going to a password-protected area, they need to be alerted.

Clearly inform the reader of the type of document/file (Word, PDF, Excel, RealAudio, etc.) the link will bring them to. State its size. Inform the reader of the software required to run this document/file, and if the software is available online, link to it. If the document is in Microsoft Word or Adobe PDF, provide a sufficient summary in HTML that fully informs the reader of what is in the document. If the reader is being sent to a password-protected area, make a statement such as “Password required.”


Generally, numbers up to and including nine are spelled out, while numbers over nine are given as figures (some organizations choose to spell out numbers up to and including 99):

I have five bottles of Heineken.

I have 100 bottles of Heineken.

If a mix of related numbers above and below nine appear in one sentence, use figures:

Unbelievably, only 2 of the 110 people on the train were injured.

Don’t start a sentence with a figure—either rephrase it or spell out the number (even if it’s over nine).

The spelling-out-below-10 rule does not apply to ages of people and animals, figures containing decimals, dates and clock time, numbers with percent, units of measurement, sums of money, degrees of temperature, and building numbers.

March 8

a 7-year-old girl

Round numbers can be both digits and words: thousands normally in digits, millions in words. Use commas in four-digit numbers and upward:





Not a subscriber?

Start A Free Trial

  • Creative Edge
  • Create BookmarkCreate Bookmark
  • Create Note or TagCreate Note or Tag
  • PrintPrint