August 31, 2006, 12:00 AM

Site search and navigation should hang together on page, says design expert

Some sites use left-hand navigation and place the search box on the right-hand site. But linking the two through design elements moves eyes – and shoppers – through pages more quickly, eye-tracking studies show.


Left-hand or top-of-the-page navigation scheme, it’s important that all navigation methods be consistent and linked to each other in retail site page layout -- and that includes site search, Neil Clemmons, senior vice president of strategy at interactive agency Critical Mass, tells Internet Retailer. According to data from eye-tracking studies the agency has managed for retail site design clients over the past two years, the site search box, a key part of how visitors find their way around the site, should be associated with the primary navigation scheme on the page.

“People will tend toward a particular navigation scheme, top or left-hand, so driving a common navigation method from the outset on a site is really important because people come to expect that,” he says.


Clemmons says eye-tracking research has shown that if the search box is in the upper right hand corner of the page – a common arrangement on many retail sites – and the site’s navigation scheme is on a page’s left-hand site, “You’re not driving a consistent region of the site,” he says.


Site search should be considered navigation, he adds. “To the extent that you start to aggregate those navigation methods into common visual areas with appropriate color or delineation, it starts to drive habits with users, and people get through the site quicker,” he says.


One Critical Mass retailer client that relocated its search box closer to its guided navigation scheme recently saw “significantly better” utilization of the guided navigation feature after it moved the search box closer to the nav bar,” he says.



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