Designing navigation is an art in itself, and designers become better at it with experience. It’s all about using good information architecture: “the art of expressing a model or concept of information used in activities that require explicit details of complex systems.”
I’ve been thinking a lot about ways to organise weblog posts, and I think I may have something.
In the search for workable ways to organise chunks of content on a weblog, I looked at how I organise things in the real world, to see if there was any existing system that could be adapted. I turned to my CD collection, which sits in racks that cover one wall of our flat. The CDs are organised alphabetically by artist, starting at the top of the far left column. There are several things that can be observed about the system I employ: firstly that the alphabetical sorting is quite informal—artists are grouped by the first letter of their name, but I’m casual about exact alphabetic sorting. I don’t worry about Radiohead coming before REM or Kraftwerk before Lenny Kravitz. Relatively simple name-grouping is sufficient for me to find what I’m looking for, without increasing the overhead of returning the CDs to the wall or adding new purchases. Secondly, there are spaces in the racks between each alphabetic group, again to allow me to add new CDs without having to reorganise the entire collection. Thirdly, I notice that, within the alphabetic groups, I tend to place albums by the same artist together and, in some cases, organise these albums in order of release.
The reverse-chronological arrangement of weblog posts has frustrated me for years. It’s a format that works for about the first week in the life of a weblog, and after that it becomes more and more of a headache.
One of the most basic principles of information architecture is that the good stuff should float to the top. Of course, what that means in real terms comes down to your definition of “good”. In the world of weblogs (and many, many other varieties of sites), this refers to the most recently added content, hence the reverse-chronological ordering of posts. But is the most recent thing you’ve written necessarily the good stuff?