I am developing a navigation system for an intranet application I am building and I have access to good tree and MillerColumn components. Has anyone else got any expereinces they could share with me on choosing one over the other

1 Answer 1


Most users come from Windows and are more familiar with tree controls than Miller columns, so for a public website's navigation you should use a tree (or menu bar for horizontal layout) in preference.

If most of the users on your intranet are on Windows, use trees. If most are on Macs, you have a case for using Miller columns, but read on...

Miller columns become space inefficient or fiddly to use unless the nodes of the tree have similar degree. On a website with many pages, I'm thinking of a site hosting lots of technical documentation here, if you try to fix that problem, you end up structuring your navigation to fit the control's needs, rather than to fit the information's natural structure. That makes it hard to maintain as requirements change. Trees and menus are more forgiving of variation in the degree of each node.

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    can you refer or cite any sources?
    – Dvir Adler
    Apr 9, 2015 at 21:48
  • @James, you said "you end up structuring your navigation to fit the control's needs," Can you elaborate? I don't find that to be the case at all since Miller columns and TreeViews can easily host the exact same data. ...unless you are referring to widths of items, not the hierarchy itself. Apr 28, 2016 at 5:47
  • @MarqueIV Say each column is tall enough to accommodate 15 items without scrolling. A node that has a fan out of three will waste space. Meanwhile you will have to scroll on a node that has 17 descendants. So although Miller columns can host the exact same data as a tree view, Miller columns use space best when the fan out (degree) of all the nodes are similar. Apr 28, 2016 at 16:24
  • True, but that to me is a benefit. Having blank areas isn't always a bad thing. That's what white space in advertising is all about. It lets the eyes focus and gain spatial context. MCs also let you see more data at the same time as well. In your example you would see the first fifteen items across several levels at once. That's not possible in a treeview as you're scrolling up and down like mad. If you also mark which items are selected and use them to pre-select them the next time those children are shown, you can quickly jump back to entire previous branches where a TV can't. Apr 29, 2016 at 13:41
  • Not saying you're wrong. Just sharing some other benefits of MCs that TVs don't have. I personally love them, especially with deep data with lots of items at each level. Apr 29, 2016 at 13:44

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