Greenhill : Splitting menus

Inconsistency adds to the confusion of an exposed menu system.

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The Site

Greenhill, a US-based investment banking firm, copes poorly with working round the inflexibility of static section navigation. Greenhill’s navigation system is based on a standard combination of horizontal primary bar and left-hand section menus. The menus are structured for up to three levels of nested headings and are displayed fully extended at all times. In well-populated sections such as Our Business scrolling is required to see the full list. The left menu is accompanied on occasion by an in-page menu sandwiched between the main content pane and the right-hand related links column. In some areas this menu is used as an alternative to the left-hand nest – for example, at _Investor Relations> Corporate Governance_, where it and not the nest displays the sub-section index; and at _Careers> Analyst Positions> Profiles_, where the switch is made for third-tier menu items.

The Takeaway

Greenhill is playing with a fundamental of good site navigation – consistency – with the predictable outcome that it sows confusion and doubt in the user. While its occasional in-page menus are unconventional, their unfamiliarity is not, however, the biggest issue; unusual systems can quickly be learned if they are deployed consistently. That, though, is not the case here: with no clear or predictable logic governing menu management users can never rely on what level of menu they will find where. The always-expanded left navigation display suggests a likely cause of the disjointed system is a form of pragmatic expediency. Its ability to generate over-long and inflexible lists is clearly a problem – it risks overwhelming visitors – and transferring to in-page menus takes some of the pressure off. Far better – and even more so than setting a level at which the switch takes place – would be to fix the root cause by, for example, unlocking the left navigation to allow a conventional progressive expansion of section menus.
First published 14 June, 2012
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