Creating clear menus and links

A link is a promise. A menu is a selection of promises. Without the link there is no Web. Links make the Web. From links we build the Web. Links. So often forgotten in the design process. So often neglected.

Why? Because the rewards always go to the “creatives”. Those who create things. To innovate has come to mean creating things with the latest technology. Right now, you’re quite simply not creative if you’re not using some sort of AI or machine learning. Funny, I think, as I watch disastrous after truly disastrous chat bot implementation, what sort of management does this organization have? Is the board room a bunch of shiny boy toys? When you open the door are the only words you hear “gee whiz”, “wow”, “cool”, “we need an app”?

The vast majority of websites and apps do not need AI to help people find things. They instead need to create a classification and navigation that have been carefully thought about and designed. Something that wasn’t put together by five smart people in a room drinking lattes in an afternoon using lots of Post-its.

Words. Digital is still the design of words. Words. Should we use “infection hotspots”, “clusters”, or “exposures”? Or should we use all of those words in a link? Would it be important to add “near me”? Trivial? Some people think these are trivial, inconsequential questions. They’re not. They’re at the absolute core of designing a great digital experience.

I’ve been doing this digital work for more than 25 years. I have watched thousands of people try to use websites. Year in, year out, the number one reason for failure is confusing menus and links. 99 out of 100 organizations do not want to hear this. 99 out of 100 organizations will never make a serious attempt to design truly clear menus and links.

Because that requires a lot of intense effort over a prolonged period. It requires a deep and intense involvement in the design process by the people who are supposed to use these menus and links. It requires judging success based on whether people are successful or not in using the links to help them find what they are looking for.

“Improve your menus and links and you will get a 10 times greater return than implementing an AI system.”

“We’re going with the AI system.”


“Because it’s more important to be seen to be doing something innovative than to actually do something useful.”

Right now, we’re in the process of supporting WHO in creating an information architecture for COVID-19. We’re working with words. We’re working intensely with the people who will use the system. We’re building the evidence of what the top tasks are so that we can design these tasks to be easiest to find and complete. We’re testing, testing, testing. It’s a collaborative, multidisciplinary approach, with input from health experts from many countries, from individuals, families, from young and old.

Right now, we’re in the process of getting people to sort the tasks into groups that will inform the design of the classification system.

Podcast: World Wide Waste
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