Evaluating navigation can take place throughout the lifecycle of a web site.
When relaunching or enhancing a web site, it's imperative to first determine the problems of the old one. At the beginning of a project, review the current site's navigation. This will also familiarize you with the site in general. Evaluating navigation of competitors can also reveal best practices and show how to effectively position your site in the marketplace.
During the research and design phases of new sites, try to identify potential issues on an ongoing basis and address them before it's too late. Peer reviews of navigation can detect potential problems early in the process.
Finally, evaluations of a site after it is launched can point to actual issues visitors have. This feedback can flow into enhancements during the maintenance phases of a web site.
The following sections introduce some common methods for evaluating navigation. Those that don't involve users are referred to as inspection methods. Though outcomes of these can be subjective, their more structured approach to site inspection yields valuable feedback. Usability tests and web metric analysis, on the other hand, focus on data about real user behavior. They can point to actual problems that users have while using your site. You can use the methods listed in Table 6-1 as a guide.
No single evaluation will give you a complete picture of navigation success. Findings and conclusions are strongest when they are validated by ...