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I am adding content to a website that has the following hierarchy:

channel > section > page

When you view any page, there is a lefthand sidebar that lists all the other pages in the same section.

In many cases there is content that could fit in multiple sections. So we physically put the content in one section, and in the other section we redirect to it from within the lefthand sidebar navigation.

My concern is whether this practice will confuse visitors because the sidebar gives the impression that the links listed are part of the same section. A user may click a link expecting to stay in the same channel & section but then is thrown to another area of the site.

Just to clarify, the visual design from one channel or section to another isn't different. But I don't know whether this redirect practice has a negative impact on usability.

I have tried to Google this topic in many ways and haven't found an answer.

EDIT: Here is a site using the same CMS: houstonisd.org/Page/31695 This page is a perfect example, because you are currently located in: Students & Parents (channel) > Student Requirements (section) > Code of Conduct (page) The pages on the lefthand sidebar are the other pages in that section (or, I would assume that is how visitors will perceive it). However, if you click 'High Frequency Word Evaluation' you are taken to a different channel and section. This site doesn't show breadcrumbs, whereas mine does.

  • Theoretically, this is bad but in practice it may not matter. Can you provide a concrete example of your hierarchy? – bishop Dec 17 '16 at 14:32
  • Here is a site using the same CMS: houstonisd.org/Page/31695 This page is a perfect example, because you are currently located in: Students & Parents (channel) > Student Requirements (section) > Code of Conduct (page) The pages on the lefthand sidebar are the other pages in that section (or, I would assume that is how visitors will perceive it). However, if you click 'High Frequency Word Evaluation' you are taken to a different channel and section. This site doesn't show breadcrumbs, whereas mine does. – deelirium Dec 19 '16 at 15:08
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A user will be much more likely to understand your site hierarchy if you keep the navigation constant. The navigation should be an overview of the structure of your site. If the navigation sends users to places they don't expect, it will appear unpredictable and unorganized.

If you are helping the user jump to content in another section, I would provide that option as a link in the body of your page so that the user doesn't expect that it behave the same as a navigational element.

Helping the user form a concrete idea of your site's organization will help them navigate it more efficiently in the future.

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If I understood correctly this is the context, a page might be the exact same (PageY) and belong to two different sections of the same or other channels:

ChannelA

  SectionP
     PageX
     PageY <--

ChannelB

  SectionQ
     PageT
     PageY <--

So if I am in ChannelB > SectionQ > PageT

ChannelB

  SectionQ
     PageT // I'm here
     PageY // I'm going to click here

and I click in PageY I suddenly appear in ChannelA > SectionP > PageY

ChannelA

  SectionP
     PageX
     PageY // I'm here after clicking

It seems strange and I will probably go back and try to open the link in a new tab. I get the impression that either I clicked wrongly or the page did something wrong.


Without knowing the context I can only think of:

  • Don't display the parent elements of the page (channel and section) so the user won't actually notice anything.

  • Force the navigation to look the way the user expects (this one looks tricky but it might be better for the user experience as it avoids confusion)

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My best guess is that this will definitely be confusing to your users.

Navigation helps users create a mental model within their head. This allows them to easily navigate the content of your website and find what they are looking for.

Therefore, it's important that the navigation accurate represents the architecture of the content.

0

There are two elements at play here:

  • navigation: how you get to content on the site.

  • location: where the content fits in within the organisation of the site.

It's good to have more than one way to get to some content. You can also show a breadcrumb that matches the route the user took.

However I believe it is better for the user if once they get there, they are shown the location of that content as it is within the organization of the site. So your sidebar should be consistent across the site, and not change based on the route the user took.

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