Gerry McGovern & Audience Based Navigation

Gerry McGovern nails it again. In his latest post, he laments audience based navigation. Not always, mind you, but often. One of McGovern’s main examples is from the educational world where audience based navigation is rampant and, in my humble opinion, replete with the problems he cites. The main thing to ensure is mutual exclusivity among audience segments. Otherwise, people don’t know where to go if they find that they fall into multiple categories. I’ve covered this topic in the past and I’m glad McGovern has given it airtime. It’s long overdue for higher ed to, at minimum, treat audience based navigation as a secondary means of exploring a site.

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  1. Did you ever end up implementing this method on your site? What were the results. I think it would be a decent ammount of work to do so I wanted to see if you think it paid off if you did do it.

  2. Matt: We came close to launching a redesign where audience nav was a secondary concern. It was actually less of a traditional audience-by-audience breakdown and more of a log in if you’re a student or employee. The site was scuttled days before going live so we were never able to validate the approach in the real world, but it tested well during development.

    And you’re right… it was a huge shift to move away from an audience centric viewpoint. It strikes at the heart of how higher ed thinks of itself. McGovern is completely correct in his assessment that sites which use audience based nab schemes are those that typically also have audience based org structures within the company. Higher ed is a good example of that systemic problem.

    The approach we wanted to take was first and foremost centered around degree programs marketed to prospective students (though we didn’t have the term “prospective student” appear anywhere). The idea was that a person would find the program of study they were interested in through a straightforward program finder and then all content contextualized around the topic. No more finding degree information, then having to navigate away to the admissions website for entrance info, then out to the financial aid site for info on cost, etc.

    I can point you to a click through mock-up, but you’ll have to hunt and peck for working links: The degree finder on the homepage doesn’t have working links, but try browsing your way to the accounting masters page and/or the psychology undergrad major.

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