Ethibel : Straying from convention
Boldness and clear signposting help pull off a flaunting of navigational norms.
Ethibel, a Belgium-based independent consultancy on ethical savings accounts and investment funds, has adopted an unusual secondary navigation system for its website.
While the seven main section links are listed reasonably conventionally in the left-hand column, the secondary, sub-section links appear in a box at the top of the page rather than within the column. The current section link is picked out with an irregular border, while the current page link is highlighted with a tint. The sub-menu box is connected to the main section heading by a ruled line or lines. Thus the Press and Publications link, the final one in the left-hand column, is linked to its own sub-sections at the top of the page by a line reaching almost the whole the height of the screen.
To run counter to accepted conventions on navigation is to run a risk that users will drift away rather than make the effort to work out how to move around. Ethibel just about gets away with it by being bold and by using clear signposts to show what it is up to.
There are two possible advantages. First, the left-hand navigation bar is not extended when sub-section menus are displayed – this means there is no danger they will spill off the bottom of the page, as can happen in a more conventional arrangement. Second, the unusual feel – particularly the irregular border used to highlight links – sets Ethibel apart from the average consultancy. It wants to be seen to be different, and it succeeds. But it is not a policy for most organisations to follow: tampering with navigation can only work if you have a clear idea of what you are doing. As they say, don’t try this at home.http://www.ethibel.com
First published on 31 January, 2006