UI Designer David Leggett wrote an interesting article recently, “Tabbed Navigation, and What Makes It Useful“. His first, and best, point is a physical observance: in a real-world store one has a sense of the physical size of the establishment the moment one enters the store, whereas online there’s no way to estimate the relative size of the enterpise by a quick visual size of its sheer volume of space.
Is it Walmart-ish? Is it a Mom’n'Pop? And does it even matter, if they have what I’m looking for? That’s just an outright good point to keep in mind, even when tabs aren’t involved.
Of course, lack of physicality also manifests as the “great leveler” that allowed an Amazon.com to compete with Barnes and Noble and all the other bookstore chains. It’s also the driver as to why a singular fellow like Matt Drudge (from DrudgeReport.com) or Craig Newmark (from CraigsList.com) give the Associated Press and other news orgs at the Newspaper Association of America a hissy fit.
While there’s a few points I think I’d debate with David over a beer or coffee — such as, “Tabs Can Connect With Secondary Navigation”, to which I’d ask, “well, how did the visitor get to the point where they needed the Navigation after they got their bearings anyway? Doesn’t that imply a lack of (or broken) persuasive engagement with the content? And therefore tabs are operating more like a crutch for someone with a busted leg: a way to re-enable mobility when it’s broken, rather than a vehicle to increase velocity” — I think the conversation itself would be a lot of fun.
Check it out! It’s a 5 minute read and well-worth your coffee break time.