Orange : Energising links
A mundane feature of navigation is given new vigour.
Orange, the leading brand of France Telecom, integrates a summary preview into a universal set of graphic utility links.
Orange features a set of 11 graphic symbols in the right-hand margin of pages across its site. Rolling the cursor over a symbol reveals a caption that identifies the subject to which the icon relates; for example, press releases (folded newspaper), calendar, stocks (price chart), job board (CV page), glossary (‘az’ note), tell us (three stylised people).
On click, the current page is greyed out and a pop-up window is superimposed. This carries a key fact or piece of information (latest vacancies, press release headlines etc) with a link to ‘all’ or ‘more’ depending on the type of information. Following this link opens a content page from within the site in the current browser window. Closing the pop-up restores the underlying page.
Orange is not alone in employing graphics to provide a visual lift to utility links above and beyond the standard ones associated with file type such as PDF or RealPlayer. But its widespread deployment across the site – escaping the confines of investor archives or annual reports, for example – transforms what is essentially a universal set of utilities from a mundane footnote to the main navigation into an energised and engaging tool. The taster provided by the pop-up summary is an added user-friendly touch, especially where there is a strong element of related linking such as with press releases.
Orange has not entirely overcome the chief drawback with icon-based navigation, which is its dependency on instinctively comprehensible imagery and unambiguous captions. The first graphic, for example, is a circle with what are not immediately recognisable as speech bubbles sprouting from it; the caption reads ‘the planet’. Neither is particularly illuminating as an indicator that this a link to “all our news stories and our worldwide footprint”. Users may just find it intriguing enough, though, to play around with the more baffling options.http://orange.com
First published on 14 January, 2010