I had found a while ago a study that offered some general guidance on what hierarchical patterns in website navigations worked best for users.

For instance :

  • Level 1 : a lot of items
  • Level 2 : very few items
  • Level 3 : a lot of items

Worked better than :

  • Level 1 : very few items
  • Level 2 : very few items
  • Level 3 : a lot of items


I've been trying to find this study again, but no success so far... Would anyone know where to find it ?

Thank you.

2 Answers 2


Do you mean https://www.nngroup.com/articles/flat-vs-deep-hierarchy/ ?

At any rate, it depends on the product range of the site.

Just like the 'maximum-of-three-clicks' rule, saying 'list many, then few' can work for a lot of cases, but it's nowhere near universal or absolute. What you need to look at, IMO, is 'most progress per step'. Which is a bit vague, yes, but it gets you thinking; what possible steps can we take?

For example, when buying a large gaming monitor, many sites have you go to Computer -> Monitors -> 26+ inch, and then look at the specs for each to see the resolution and refresh rates.

But Tweakers.net's Pricewatch makes you navigate to the monitor categories and says 'okay this is all we have' and lets you specify very precisely what specs you want. Resolution, refresh rate, what ports, TN or IPS, etcetera. It also uses a lot of sliders instead of categories, so you can cull more efficiently. You can specify 28~30, instead of having to look at the 26+ and 30+ categories.

It takes a handful more steps to filter, but you end up with, say, 50 screens to look at instead of 200.

Oh, and keep in mind that hierarchical patterns can be present on a single page. On amazon: enter image description here

You can either go to monitors, or directly to gaming monitors. So are they showing few*few (3*4) items or are they showing many (12) items?

answer: it doesn't matter if its few*few or many, as long as you think about it

  • Hi, thank you for your feedback! Good article, and thanks for your thoughts on the subject.
    – Julien N.
    Commented Mar 3, 2016 at 20:01

Smashing Magazine has a couple of good articles that I have read in the past...

https://www.smashingmagazine.com/2011/06/planning-and-implementing-website-navigation/ https://www.smashingmagazine.com/2013/03/navigation-mega-sites/

Both quite old now thought 2011 and 2013. Was that what you were looking for?

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