Business Insider : Editorialising navigation

Conflict is created between news and usability.

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The feature

Business Insider, US-based business news site, puts story promotion ahead of content menus. Business Insider’s website has 14 primary sections represented in its main navigation bar including Home, which has its own sub-sections. Of the 14, 10 represent topic or sector ‘verticals’ such as Tech, Finance, Strategy and Sports and on mouseover of their headings a preview panel is generated immediately below the navigation bar. The panel carries a large image and headline that links through to a story within the section. Some panels have a short topic index to the left (showing between two and four items) that controls the story display on mouseover but on click goes to the corresponding sub-section and not the highlighted story. Full sub-section menus are only revealed after entering a section, in a secondary horizontal bar.

The takeaway

Business Insider explains in its ‘about us’ information that the structure of its website is part of a “focus on building the leading online business news site for the digital age”. It might now want to take a look at the balance it is striking between its own, editorially driven, imperatives and those of its online visitors. News management is, of course, the nature of its business, but letting that govern its use of preview panels with primary navigation conflicts with the initial need of information seekers looking for a particular line of content. The very range of content on offer and the nature of a business audience are accentuating factors. Site users are further inconvenienced by the navigational peculiarities of the preview panels themselves. The mouseover control of featured stories is not intuitive, partly because the story on current display is so dominant. The separate functioning on click – relating to a sub-section and not the story – is another source of potential confusion. Yes, users of a news site expect to be guided to stories, but that should not be so pervasive that they lose a basic guide to content.
First published 13 December, 2012
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