Navigation Isn't Necessarily the Place to Show Your Creative Flair

So I took my car to the dealership yesterday for service and took the shuttle back to work. Riding in the shuttle reminded me of one of the best examples of disregarding user's expectations regarding navigation. The shuttle was a Nissan Quest which is a pretty decent minivan in its own right. The design flaw is that the speedometer and other driver gauges are moved to the center of the dashboard. (Thankfully, they have redesigned the dashboard in more recent models).

While aesthetically beautiful, it completely disregards the fact that every other vehicle in the world gives the most important gauges to the person who needs them most, the driver. Here are just a few reasons I could see this being a problem:

  • The driver must think about looking to the right to see how fast he/she's going. This is a distraction from the road
  • Warning lights are not within easy vision while the driver looks forward down the road
  • Perhaps most importantly, it promotes backseat driving by the kids. "Slow down!" "Daddy, why are you going two miles above the speed limit?"

We see this type of thing on the web all the time. People navigate websites with a purpose in mind. They want to be dazzled by the content, not the navigational elements. By having the proverbial speedometer in the same place, they have confidence that they will succeed in their mission. I think Jakob Nielsen said it best in his Law of the Web User Experience which states "users spend most of their time on other websites."

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