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Guidance on more than 3 levels/tiers in hierarchical navigation?

    Question

  • We are in the process of designing a Windows Store app that is essentially a content browswer for a bunch of content published elsewhere as web pages and PDF documents. The content can be quite lengthy in some cases and we want to break it down so that users are not scrolling across dozens of pages. However, this would mean up to 4 to 5 levels of navigation with sub-hubs (or possibly sub-sections).

    Everything I have found so far about the hierarchical navigation model (e.g. this) all talks about three levels and makes no mention of what to do if you have more than that.

    So my main question is: Is there any guidance out there on how to handle this situation?

    I understand that, unless there is some clear-cut guideline, the answer will likely depend on the nature of our content. If that is the case, it is implicitly saying that > 3 levels is okay if the user experience is good, so we can work with it.  If not, though, I am specifically wanting to know:

    1. Is going beyond three levels considered very bad form and that there are ways to normalize information to that model?
    2. Is there some exisitng written guidance out there on this that anyone can point me to?

    Thanks for any help,

    Dave Parker


    • Edited by wwdavep Wednesday, November 14, 2012 8:43 PM remove duplicate sig
    Wednesday, November 14, 2012 8:35 PM

Answers

  • There isn't any specific guidance for this. The guidelines are for typical apps, but as you note specific apps may work better with different experiences. The most important thing is to think through the user experience so that it works well for your app.

    That said, depending on how the content is organized you may be able to put it all in a "single" hub level and use semantic zoom to avoid scrolling across dozens of pages. Take a look at the Store app for an example of this 3-level (+ zoom) hierarchy.

    --Rob

    Thursday, November 15, 2012 1:32 AM
    Owner

All replies

  • There isn't any specific guidance for this. The guidelines are for typical apps, but as you note specific apps may work better with different experiences. The most important thing is to think through the user experience so that it works well for your app.

    That said, depending on how the content is organized you may be able to put it all in a "single" hub level and use semantic zoom to avoid scrolling across dozens of pages. Take a look at the Store app for an example of this 3-level (+ zoom) hierarchy.

    --Rob

    Thursday, November 15, 2012 1:32 AM
    Owner
  • Thank you for your response, Rob.  Your answer is about what I expected.  Effectively "It depends..." and it ultimately comes down to the best user experience, which is both understandable and the correct approach.  I will add that a colleague of mine also privately offered this response after doing some of his own research:

    Check out the News app. When you open it it appears as a standard hub-section-detail view, but open the app bar (right-click) and there are three choices: Bing Daily, My News, and Sources. Each of the three choices takes you to what are conceptually different hubs, of which the launch view (Bing Daily) is just one. The sports app does something similar, with a different “hub” for each sport. This looks like a very common design pattern.

    There’s also no requirement that a hub page allow direct access to detail pages. The Cocktail Flow app in the store, which is one of the ones they’ve been using as kind of a showcase app for developers, only lets you click through to section pages from the hub. When you get to a section page (whiskey drinks, red drinks, classic drinks, etc.), only then can you access the detail page for an individual drink.

    Also check out this article, which is an interesting description of how a very wide and deep app was designed to conform to the Metro three-tier principles.

    I think the upshot is that the content should drive the navigation, rather than the other way around. Rather than try to shoehorn all the content into a predetermined hierarchical structure, it’s more important to determine what each unit of content is, conceptually—section, detail, or something else—and then settle on a navigational structure that provides the best access to all of it. I’ll experiment with some different approaches and see what works best.

    Hopefully this thread will help others with the same question.

    Thanks


    Dave Parker

    Thursday, November 15, 2012 3:28 PM
  • My understanding is that for more than three levels deep you want to

    1.  Provide a clear sense of where in the app one is.

    2.  Allow quick reversal to any node above the current one.

    3.  Always show the top level, and maybe one level down as available in one click.

    4.  Account for how to desribe in english where a page is, so a friend over coffee can tell someone else.

    Thursday, December 06, 2012 9:28 PM