Lombard : Dropping clues

Management of long navigation menus needs thinking through.

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The Site

Lombard, a UK-based business-to-business finance group, misses vital help for users when trying to manage long navigation menus. Lombard’s UK site has four primary sections, three of which – Assets we finance, Types of finance and Case studies – are rich in secondary and tertiary level content. For example, Types of finance has 14 sub-sections; three of the ten sub-sections in Assets we finance (Aviation, Cars and vans, Marine) are further sub-divided; the Commercial Transportation sub-section of Case studies has a 12-item index. In cases where a secondary menu heading leads to deeper-level content, the secondary menu is replaced in the left-hand navigation by the sub-menu for the secondary heading. All indications of the higher levels of navigation disappear. A breadcrumb trail is provided, but this appears at top left of the header bar, above the company logo, rather than within the page area.

The Takeaway

Lombard’s site is constructed around a conventional menu system, with horizontal primary navigation backed up by a left-hand section-menu panel. It creates problems for users, however, in trying to adapt the system to accommodate lengthy lists of secondary or tertiary headings. In several instances these would extend the menu off the visible page if the standard device of expanding headings to show their ‘nest’ of tertiary headings were adopted. Lombard’s antidote is to repopulate the left-hand panel with only the lower-level menu. This is unusual but not unfamiliar, on large corporate sites, for example. But the lack of clear clues that this will or has happened or where the higher menu can be retrieved is a recipe for disorientation and confusion outweighing the potential inconvenience Lombard set out to avoid. The inclusion of something as simple as a reverse arrow or chevron prefix to the menu title would provide the necessary clue to unlock confusion, as would the relocation of the breadcrumb trail to its standard position between the header/primary navigation bar and page content, where it logically belongs.

First published 05 July, 2012
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