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There is some conflict in my team regarding site navigation for a tax product. Specifically, one group wants to have an wizard-guided action, "Complete Tax Organizer", as an item in the primary navigation along side of stable pieces of navigation such as "2014 Tax Documents", etc.. Their thought is once the user completes this task, the item will disappear from the navigation.

To me, representing this information this way feels problematic for a couple of reasons:

  1. The primary navigation changing on the user (there are 5 items total and the one would inexplicably disappear).
  2. I think it's awkward to represent both stable content and a "call to action" as sibling items in a navigation scheme.

However, these objections are just feelings of mine. The team is reluctant to consider change unless I can back up these intuitions with data. Does anyone have any articles to which I can refer that either confirm or refute my suspicions?

  • Welcome to the site! At the moment, your question is phrased to support confirmation bias. Although my intuitions agree with yours, it would be more productive to ask whether anyone knows of research that confirms or refutes those assumptions. – Graham Herrli Aug 13 '14 at 21:31
  • Great point. You'll find my question edited. – abutment Aug 14 '14 at 0:08
  • There is another issue inherent in that sort of 'wizard' design: user enters info, user moves on to next task, user realizes they entered wrong info, user cannot find the original page. – AJMansfield Aug 14 '14 at 19:40
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Sometimes you can't backup things with data, because noone had this special problem or those people are not here...

So if this should be true, I suggest making a design bet out of it and run an A/B-Test, seeing if there are problems when you have it on top nav or not. Possible measurments might be support tickets regarding this issue, task completions or page views (but this is just a lucky guess, you would need to define the indicators).

An other solution to this issue you can see on this forum: They implemented top nav links and an action button in the same line. However, they are of different visual styles, makes it clear that it's not the same. Would that be a reasonable compromise?

Let's see, perhaps someone has actual data on a similar issue.

  • Your observations are very astute. Thank you for sharing them. I think I will propose adopting the action button concept for the action item. – abutment Aug 14 '14 at 14:12
  • Thx for "astute" - learned this word just now (German) ;-) – Alexej Froehlich Aug 14 '14 at 14:30
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After doing further research (greatly helped by learning the industry-adopted terminology for these issues), I have gathered information that seems to support my hypotheses. I will list the main issues along with my findings.

  1. It is often confusing to blend object based (i.e. "Current Year Tax Documents") and task based (I.e."Complete Tax Organizer") navigation themes.
    "The power of a pure organization scheme derives from its ability to suggest a simple mental model for users to quickly understand. Users easily recognize an audience-specific or topical organization. However, when you start blending elements of multiple schemes, confusion is almost guaranteed.” - Rosenfeld & Morville in Information Architecture for the World Wide Web
  2. It may be desirable to have a noun (object) based primary navigation paradigm. "Pioneers in GUI design in the 1980s built upon research about the most intuitive paradigm—and hence, interaction—for users, which is noun-verb, not verb-noun (see Why Verbs are Hard to Learn by Dedre Gentner).”- Everyl Yankee for UX Mastery
  3. Global/ Primary navigation items are being removed while the user is within the site. "Sadly, lots of sites change their navigation features as users move around. Options come and go, making users feel a loss of control. How do I get that menu choice back? I saw it just a few pages ago. Although global navigation is not a site's most popular element, its persistence serves a key purpose: it's a beacon that helps users understand both where they are and how they can easily maneuver back to the top of the site if they lose their way.” - Nielsen Norman Group in Top 10 Information Architecture Mistakes

Given these issues, I will likely be recommending the following to A/B test:

  1. Change the navigation to be totally object-based in its wording.
  2. Break out the “Complete Tax Organizer” item from the navigation and change it to a hyperlink/button/ task on the page.

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