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Does anyone know of any research or studies regarding usability concerns of duplicating links within a navigation structure? When I say "duplicating links" I mean repeating a menu item within the navigation as demonstrated below with "Child link 1". Keep in mind SEO is not a concern in this situation since this is for an enterprise application.

  • Parent link 1
    • Child link 1
    • Child link 2
    • Child link 3
  • Parent link 2
    • Child link 4
    • Child link 5
  • Parent link 3
    • Child link 1
    • Child link 6
  • 1
    What's the reason for duplicating it? I would argue that this is a bad idea and that there is usually a better solution to whatever the core problem may be. – William Anderson Apr 25 '17 at 13:45
  • The problem is we have a mixed group of users. Some have prior system knowledge and expect to find the information in a particular location, while others are new and look in an another area entirely. We've tried different terminology within the parent and child links but this appears to be a reoccurring trend within our tree testing studies. This has been proposed as a solution, but I'm looking for hard studies as a counter argument against this. – Nolan Plant Apr 25 '17 at 14:35
  • I think it would be hard/impossible to find any research or studies as this problem you are trying to solve is unique to your situation and your solution architecture. BTW I design enterprise software too. Your example is too generic - do you have a more concrete example that describes the problem you are trying to solve? – SteveD Apr 25 '17 at 15:33
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Here is a good article regarding duplication in UX. One of the main points they make is in line with why I think it is a bad idea:

  • With more possible links or actions, there is a higher risk of confusing the user. By duplicating content, you are unnecessarily complicating your UI / UX

I would argue that if you are putting the same link under two different parent links, then something is wrong with the way you are organizing your parent categories. There should really be a "best place" for the child link to reside, probably under whatever parent category is most appropriate for its content.

EDIT:

Some have prior system knowledge and expect to find the information in a particular location

I'd also like to add that designing from this standpoint can be detrimental. If that information doesn't really fit in that location, then you should take this as an opportunity to break that bad convention before more users just "get used to it".

  • 💯 this => "something is wrong with the way you are organizing your parent categories". If you take the approach of leaving behind the old solution every time you make an enhancement, you might as well stop working on your product now -- it's only going to get worse. – plainclothes Apr 25 '17 at 15:42
  • Excellent answer! Note: the number of links and the type of classification does matter. The OP example has 3 parent links, 6 child links, in 1 menu/UI. In practice (in enterprise environment) I have come across many more complex navigation structures where duplication did make sense for us. E.g. with 20+ product categories. and 100+ sub-categories. With "Kids shampoo" in "kids" as well as "hair care". In real life, the designer is not always in control of defining unambiguous "parents", e.g. when these are departments, or markets, or whatever. – wintvelt Apr 25 '17 at 16:23
  • @wintvelt You are right in the assumption that the above structure is an oversimplification of our actual structure. Even though our case is a bit more complex, I argue it can be simplified and the "best place" (as william anderson mentioned) can be found. The reason I posted this question was I was looking for more broad, research-based evidence to back up (or counter) my opinion. – Nolan Plant Apr 25 '17 at 18:50
  • Thanks for clarifying. In that case, @williamanderson's answer is spot on. – wintvelt Apr 25 '17 at 19:31
  • Not sure I can agree with this unilaterally... let me see what I can find. – Mattynabib Apr 15 at 15:08
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There is definite value to the article linked above, and many good reasons not to duplicate links on a page. In a hierarchy, however, depending on how these duplicates are being presented - as the same link in different navigation menus, for example - there can be an argument for it. I present as evidence this article by the very same group (Norman Nielsen Group) about polyhierarchies.

Since menus are rarely if ever open at the same time, duplicating links that fall ambiguously into multiple categories does not appear to present the same cognitive load as having multiples all visible simultaneously. As noted in the article, if the site is a deep or complex one, polyhierarchies might not be a good idea, since it can mess up wayfinding techniques such as a breadcrumb trail. But for simpler sites and ones that don't rely on wayfinding, multiple items in navigation can sometimes be a useful tool.

Card or tree sorting exercise with your users can help you determine if this is a good idea, of course.

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