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Here is the context:

Type of website: Apparel e-commerce

Thoughts: I am wondering if displaying any images related to a product category on a level 2 side menu will improve my UX ?

Example: enter image description here

Any advices ? Any experiences?

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3 Answers 3

up vote 2 down vote accepted

In a menu, the absolute maximum that a user should need to read while scanning for their required option is one word, so without icons you should put the most informative word first. An icon could indeed make scanning more efficient, but only if you can contrive to make the icons intuitively suggestive of the content. In the above scenario this would be tricky to do, as you have a lot of items on the 2nd level (i.e. icons for shirts would look way too similar to icons for sweaters to improve scanning speed).

I would suggest that instead of putting in an icon per individual menu option, you could put in one per section (where you have the separating lines). This would help the user to navigate the sections quickly without having to read too much text, and then you would be relying on the "one word" principle for a much smaller set of menu options.

EDIT:

If you are referring to the image on the side, I would say to be careful putting this in a 2nd level menu. I think that something like this can look good on a main page (where the menu options controlling it are in a single column), but in the example above the graphic on the right is too far away from the menu options in the left column to provide intuitive feedback. I imagine it would be more distracting than anything else to have a graphic flicker and change so far away from where the user is focused.

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First, I thought he meant icons, too. But suddenly realized he said about image of a man on a right side in a "monster" menu. –  Alexey Kolchenko Mar 12 at 12:25
    
Oh! I see. That's strange I'm not sure it helps. –  Franchesca Mar 12 at 12:29
    
It makes more sense for you now? –  Jybz Mar 12 at 13:28
    
yes, I edited my answer to reflect this :) –  Franchesca Mar 12 at 14:22
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Depending on the purpose...

Anything that you add/remove/change will likely have a certain effect to the user, i don't know exactly what your image is doing there, but i will tell you what kind of effect it gives:

  1. It attracts/highlights which means whenever the user opens the menu, there's a high chance that his eyes will first hit on the image.
  2. It's not a trending method - or sticking to the standards - , if everyone uses this method for a certain purpose, then everyone else know it, but i'm not sure if i have seen such a method before. It might create a what's this at the users side, which i would prefer to avoid, since what's this questions, are answered based on each user's opinion, in the end might result with a this design is confusing in the subconscious
  3. It could seem like an advertisement, if so, i do not think that advertisements belong to this place.

it could, it could, it could...

What's better than getting the answer from someone, is extracting the answer yourself, and this comes with testing, invite your "targeted audience" to use your service, and track their behaviors, based on their behaviors you will know what is your design doing, and that's when you ask yourself, is this supposed to achieve this? if not, what should it achieve?

User centered design is your reference.

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I think images could improve UX of your menu for some reasons:

  • megamenu which contains text only is boring, as creates more cognitive load
  • image creates context and could be used as unconscious persuasion tool (ala neuro-design)
  • image is a great mean to promote some goods

Take a look at Amazon megamenu and imagine if they didn't use images:
enter image description here

Also take into account, images are primary focus points, so they should be high-quality and related to the menu item. See also how the image is weaved into menu, it's very natural and organic. This creates relation.

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Where do you draw the line between a functional menu on-demand vs. the appearance of taking them to a completely different page just for the menu? The amazon menu is very huge and that was my first impression with it. If not for the size then I would agree with you. –  Pdxd Mar 12 at 15:47
    
I'd say both cases are menu pattern, which is the mean of either delivering content (more close to native web) or executing some functionality (more close to app). For content-oriented cases images could improve UX, as they add balance to left brain content (items). High performance is not main goal in this case. –  Alexey Kolchenko Mar 12 at 16:45
    
True, but for something functional, as @Franchesca mentioned, it's very distracting. –  Pdxd Mar 12 at 18:57
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