UBS : Laying new trails

Breadcrumb-styled top level navigation is a recipe for confusion.

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The Site

UBS, Switzerland-based financial services group, has adopted a breadcrumb style presentation of primary navigation that plays havoc with usability. UBS’ global home page has a conventional-looking navigation bar running below a feature panel. The bar covers five items: UBS News, About us, Individual clients, Corporate & institutional clients and Careers. It does not appear on pages within the site. These feature a breadcrumb-style string at top left below the company logo. Items on the ‘trail’ have a dropdown menu on mouseover, indicated by a downward-pointing arrow. The first heading, Global home, is universal but its menu is inconsistent with that on the home page – it has only two of five headings (About us and Careers) in common. In many areas the ‘trail’ does not extend beyond Global home. Where it does extend, as in About us, the section heading in the ‘trail’ has a menu of sub-sections in its dropdown (for example, Careers, Investor relations, Media). These are not repeated in sub-section navigation, which relates only to the chosen sub-section and may be either a left-hand panel (Investor relations) or a standard horizontal bar (Corporate responsibility).

The Takeaway

UBS’ adoption of an interactive breadcrumb-style configuration for its primary/secondary menu system, including the use of dropdowns, is distinctive but as implemented it adds to the confusion of moving around what is a complex global website. On one level the abandonment of standard presentation and the appearance of what replaces it mean most new and occasional users will be made to work to figure out the system. From another angle, though, the trail device arguably does not, literally, go far enough. Were it to act as a progressive menu system incorporating deeper layers within sections and be applied universally, replacing left-hand or horizontal panels/bars, the level of consistency would make the system both easier to learn and enhance its distinctiveness. As it is it is lost in a kind of no man’s land between a conventional intuitive system and a revolutionary but workable alternative.
First published 20 September, 2012
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