The Decreasing Importance of the Navigation Bar

Though the internet and its accompanying technological breakthroughs have changed the way we communicate, human nature remains the same: When we use a website or an app we have an explicit goal which we want to achieve easily and intuitively.

The navigation bar seems to be the ultimate tool for this purpose. Obviously if you’re visiting an online magazine looking for your favorite basketball team’s ranking, all you have to do is click the sports nav bar and look under ‘rankings’.

However, it turns out that the development of data retrieval technology has decreased the importance of the classic navigation bar and the obvious way to look for info is no longer so obvious. As both structured and freeform search engines become more sophisticated, users are far less likely to delve into the recesses of the navigation bar and prefer to use keyword searches to filter their results.

The user will prefer the keyword search provided it is efficient and friendly – able to automatically complete text, suggest similar results and allow for smart filtering.

Everything we just mentioned should not affect the structure of the website and its navigation bars, which should still be divided according to topics and the needs of different target audiences. Nevertheless, it’s time to realize that users will try and reach their goal using search engines.

This means that complex or content-heavy websites should start giving more importance to data retrieval systems, regardless of whether their content revolves around fashion, home appliances, banking or health.

When users encounter complex or confusing navigation bars (and let’s face it, they often do), they’ll try and find what they’re looking for using the search engines. If those fail them, they’ll give up and (if possible) run to the competitors.

The Bank Leumi website prides itself on being at the forefront of technological development. I tried to find out the opening hours of one of their Tel Aviv branches. Since there is no ‘branches’ link on their main navigation bar or nearby, I typed my query into the search box. It had no auto-complete mechanism and in the results there was no mention of the branch I was looking for. Oh, apparently clicking “find a branch” (number 5 on the results list) takes you to the (not very user friendly) branch filtering service, and there I could find the information I needed.

Bank Leumi: Trying to find a local branch

That’s no way to build a technological edge. Unfortunately, they’re not the only ones with this problem. Providing easy data retrieval, the kind that makes your customers either purchase something or leave feeling satisfied, requires an investment in technology, data optimization and careful planning – rather than in toys and knickknacks such as social media outlets, blogs and games.

In the Citibank website I found an excellent branch location search (by country), situated right at the top of their homepage. That leads you to a sophisticated search engine which includes auto-complete, a nearby location filter and more. Even if this isn’t the best solution, they clearly know the lay of the land.

Citibank: An Undesrstanding of Technology

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