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We are currently working on designing a Responsive Web Site for a very niche market. The user base (elderly) would be using this site purely from content consumption - reading perspective more than anything else. Homepage is having main topics (level 1). Within each topic, there are multiple categories (Level 2)(currently hundreds, growing towards thousands, having really long names) and under each category thousands of articles (level 3) are present. Each article may have the article outline/sections within it. (Level 4, dynamic menu)

Now, on mobile device, we are willing to go for hamburger menu and keeping it sticky. This will solve accessing purely level 1 menu. As level 2 & 3 comes with big number, we can not show it in hamburger. (who will see scroll to see 778 categories in off canvas hamburger menu?). Hence we think combination of navigation pattern should be used. Mostly within page sticky menus can be used so that it will not hamper reading activity and will keep menu accessible always to jump from one section to other. Is there any way we can still use hamburger menu? What type of navigation patterns should be used here? Any examples for such menu and content heavy sites in RWD?

We will be using and supporting Search but just don't want to fully rely on it. Please suggest.

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Since you mentioned your audience is mainly elderly folk I don't think using hamburger menus are a good idea, since they popped up quite recently. I'd go with something that feels more like traditional web navigation, but geared to mobile resolution.

  • Do we really know whether elderly people (and smart phone users in particular) would handle a traditional website better than a modern interface? Added some thoughts on this to my answer. – user31143 Oct 23 '15 at 5:23
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    The issue is not "modern" - the problem is, that the hamburger menu does not even work well for young audiences. While it is a trendy element, the rule "if it is important, do not hide it" still counts and applies to the hamburger as well. Main navigation should NEVER (yes, it's caps!) go in the hamburger menu. – Jan Oct 26 '15 at 10:20
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I don't think it is particularly important to make millions of content items directly available via navigation. If you look at other sites with similar amounts of content, they hardly ever work this way.

Instead, the way one accesses content is:

  • Search. This is a much more efficient, friendly way to find what you want in a huge sea of content.
  • A highlighted subset of content. The highlighted content can be:
    • Global Such a homepage with top articles that everyone sees)
    • Tailored to the User Such as recommendations based on a user's previous activity or stated interests.

In the past, some content providers did indeed offer huge hierarchical navigation schemes. For example, this used to be Yahoo's hallmark. However, as search has improved, this approach has become obsolete.

If you are worried about users being competent at navigating, I think intelligently displaying a subset of content is key. If possible, they should see something that may interest them as soon as they start the app, and reading one article should naturally lead them on to others (as Youtube does, for example, with recommended videos based on the current video you are watching).

In addition, some testing would be warranted. It is easy to make assumptions about what elderly users can and can't do, but these assumptions may not be correct. 20 years ago, many older people were struggling to get online and use email, but today's elderly are likely to have been using computers for decades.

And in particular, in this case you are talking about an interface for elderly smart phone users. Their computer literacy is likely to be different from the elderly population as a whole. Do we really know the competence of such a demographic?

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Users aged 65 and older are 43% slower at using websites than users aged 21–55. This is an improvement over previous studies, but designs must change to better accommodate ageing users.

While you're at it, you can read this article on 'Seniors as Web Users' by Jakob Nielsen: http://www.nngroup.com/articles/usability-for-senior-citizens/

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