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We're trying to design the navigation for a service that helps digital advertising agencies manage the analytics services of their clients.

So far, from talking to potential customers, we know that:

  • Agencies want to be able to see both high-level summaries of how their agency is doing as a whole, as well as individual summaries on a per-client basis.

  • Moving between clients is a very common operation. Agencies want to check on clients one at a time.

  • Moving between contexts within a client or within the agency is a very common operation. (That is, once you're looking at a client, your next operation is usually to do something else with that client.)

  • "Clients", "metrics", and "reports" are important first-class citizens.

We're having trouble creating a navigation scheme that addresses all of these thoughts.

Thoughts so far

Initially we thought that we'd have a "context bar" that tells you where you are in the hierarchy at a given moment, and lets you switch contexts as needed. This got good reviews:

http://i.imgur.com/dlE3w8r.jpg?1

Here the search icon expands a search bar that lets you omnisearch across everything for your agency -- clients, reports, metrics, and so on.

Clicking on the text "Chipotle" shows you a dropdown with all the clients, along with a quick status indicator and how much recent activity they've had; this lets you pick a different one quickly:

enter image description here

So, that lets you jump around to arbitrary areas of the site and easily switch between clients, but it doesn't provide much guidance for knowing what you can look at. So for that we need some navigation.

We started with a simple left-hand vertical navigation that contains the major concepts of our service:

http://i.imgur.com/ysI2T6B.jpg?1

The problem

Here's the problem:

  • If you click on "Metrics" and you're already on a client, you'll presumably go to a list of all the metrics. But what if you just want to look at the metrics for one client?

We can't seem to come up with a way of having useful left-hand navigation that helps people explore at the agency level and at the client level, without being inconsistent.

How do we resolve that conflict?

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1 Answer 1

I think of proximity principle, locating the controls in appropriate spaces. Top (global) menu is for high-level (global) summaries for the agency, left menu (more specific) is for client level. As you have no deep hierarchy, the context-bar which looks like breadcrumbs is not necessary.
enter image description here

Also it is more consistent, as the top menu and left menu roles are never changed causing no confusion.

UPDATE
A bit closer to you need, but it brings a mode to the interaction which is not good as it could be confusing.
enter image description here

share|improve this answer
    
Thanks for your thoughts, Alexey. You definitely raise a good alternative. One thing I dislike somewhat about this approach is that half the link text is repeated -- dashboard, metrics, and reports are each listed twice. (Of course, they go to different places, but it takes a little thought to recognize that, which means it's a little harder for the user to work with.) –  John Feminella Aug 14 '13 at 10:59
    
@JohnFeminella This is the way for quick switching between levels without loosing consistency. Though there could be other ways. Still user testing is the answer ). –  Alexey Kolchenko Aug 14 '13 at 11:18

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