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We're considering changing some items in the menu based on the season. For example, during the winter, in the sports section of our site, it means removing 'Golf' in the menu and adding it in the 'Plus' and adding 'Ski'. When spring begins, it's to swap the same sports.

Any thoughts, studies or else on playing with the main menu based on the seasonality of menu items?

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27  
Australians might find it confusing. –  Frantisek Kossuth Oct 23 '13 at 15:37
5  
You could try to detect user location by GeoIP or similar, to get the correct season. The half of the world on the southern hemisphere will thank you. –  BoppreH Oct 23 '13 at 16:42
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5 Answers

I think it's a great idea to change navigation. In the winter, people are less likely to be looking for golfing products, and more for skiing products. Your navigation needs to meet two goals:

  • Consistency: the navigation needs to be the same across the site, intuitive.
  • Relevancy: the user needs to be presented with the options they are looking for.

Now, it's difficult to achieve both because shopping patterns are not stationary over time. You don't want to change the navigational layout too often, as it may confuse regular users. But it's a worthwhile trade-off in order to provide more relevant options to the user.

I would base any decision to change the navigation on historic data, or else do a test to see which is more useful. In absence of your own data, you can look to something like Google Trends.

Golf vs Ski

Data will reveal patterns over time. In the above graphs, you can clearly see that 'interest' in golf doubles from January to July. Interest in skiing goes up by a factor of 5 between July and January. What this kind of analysis tells you is that skiing is almost irrelevant for most of the year. But, in a very narrow span of 4 months, interest grows substantially. This is when you'd consider changing your navigation to add 'Ski'.

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Ehm... "Golf VW" is the "Golf" car model of the "VolksWagen" car manufacturer. Just saying. –  kaiser Oct 23 '13 at 14:43
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According to this, golf is always more relevant than skiing. :-) –  Danny Varod Oct 23 '13 at 14:43
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@kaiser That is why it was filtered out in the definition using the -. –  Danny Varod Oct 23 '13 at 14:44
    
@DannyVarod Oh. Didn't know of that magic. –  kaiser Oct 23 '13 at 14:48
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The (actual) Season/Date doesn't matter

When you stick to trend analysis, like @Brendon suggested, then you shouldn't base this switch off a date, but on the real trend results.

Here's a nice explanation on StackOverflow explaining the "Google Trends" HTTP API.

So do your request (cron job?) and switch when one trend is getting "larger" than the other.

Don't confuse your users

Whenever users settle with a navigation scheme and get used to it, they will intuitively click-follow their default route instead of actually reading weather there's "Golf" or "Ski" written.

As @AndroidHustle suggested, you could add a dedicated seasonal navigation item. Just name it something like "Seasonal Sports" and add an icon on the upper right (depending if RTL or not) and switch it with the trends, as well as the navigational target. The icon might best be as simple as possible and stand a bit out like a "new" or similar badge might do to indicate the current season.

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4  
I misread this as "data doesn't matter" and I was rather confused by the content at first –  smcg Oct 23 '13 at 15:56
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@smcg So you're saying the UX of my headline wasn't clear? Maybe we should ask a question about that :) –  kaiser Oct 23 '13 at 16:19
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I believe the best practice here is to keep the main menu the way it is but allow for featured categories on the home screen. This way you don't move navigational items around in the main navigation, something that could easily confuse and frustrate your regular customers (and that's not a good thing), but lets you utilize the start page to feature categories that are more in line with the current season. Now no one will be confused when a category isn't where they expect it to be and the irregular visitor will get that inspiration on which sports to try out when they see the featured items on the main page.

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If I understand your question correctly, it sounds like you currently plan for the "menu" to be for in-season sports, and the "plus" to be for out-of-season sports.

It would be better practice for the plus to always have all sports, whether or not they are in-season. This sets up for the menu to provide fast access (the most popular sports have an easy-to-reach shortcut), while the plus provides reliable access (the sport you want can always be found there).

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+1 very good point. –  AJMansfield Oct 23 '13 at 20:54
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Assuming you have the distinction between summer and winter sports only, why not highlight summer when it's summer, and winter during winter time while leaving both visible?

Suppose we're talking about navigation. You could create two headers - summer and winter - working as a simple accordion. Each section being opened during its season. The other being closed. See:

mockup

download bmml source – Wireframes created with Balsamiq Mockups

Removing parts of navigation entirely could potentially confuse, or even frustrate the visitors enough to leave the page and search the information/products elsewhere.

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