So far, we’ve focused attention on the bread-and-butter components of navigation systems, the elements that form the foundation of useful, usable web sites. Good navigation design is really important and really hard. Only after you’ve mastered the integration of these fundamental building blocks should you dare wander into the minefield of advanced navigation.
Personalization involves serving up tailored pages to the user based upon a model of the behavior, needs, or preferences of that individual. In contrast, customization involves giving the user direct control over some combination of presentation, navigation, and content options. In short, with personalization, we guess what the user wants, and with customization, the user tells us what he wants.
Both personalization and customization can be used to refine or supplement existing navigation systems. Unfortunately, however, both have been hyped by consultants and software vendors as the solution to all navigation problems. The reality is that personalization and customization:
Typically play important but limited roles
Require a solid foundation of structure and organization
Are really difficult to do well
Personalization has preoccupied marketing folks in recent years, partly due to the influential book by Don Peppers and Martha Rogers, The One to One Future. On a web site, you might use demographic data (e.g., age, sex, income level, zip code) and previous purchasing ...