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Write the Docs 2017: Building navigation for your doc site: 5 best practices by Tom Johnson
Although users typically arrive at doc websites in a confused and impatient state, not sure of where to find what they’re looking for, good navigation can guide them to the right answer. Good navigation anticipates users’ needs, provides links in commonly viewed places, and brings the right topic into the foreground amid hundreds of other topics.
As you build out the navigation for your doc site, follow these 5 design principles:
Entry point. Design the entry point to your system to orient users and allow them to easily get started.
Hierarchy. Create a hierarchical outline of the content to help users both understand and visualize the body of information.
Modularity. Break up content into independent topics that can be viewed, understood, and updated independent of the whole.
Progressive disclosure. Layer the information so that you don’t present everything at once but rather make some content available only at secondary or tertiary levels.
Wayfinding. Provide navigational signposts — such as breadcrumbs and workflow maps — to help orient users as to where they are in a larger system.
To watch other Write the Docs 2017 Portland conferences videos, see the this playlist on the Write the Docs YouTube channel.
To learn more about the Portland Write the Docs conference, see writethedocs.org/conf/na/2017/.
If you missed my conference write-up, see Impressions from the Write the Docs Conference – and thoughts on achieving sustainability without selling out to vendors.
I'm a technical writer / API doc specialist based in the Seattle area. In this blog, I write about topics related to technical writing and communication — such as software documentation, API documentation, visual communication, information architecture, writing techniques, plain language, tech comm careers, and more. Check out simplifying complexity and API documentation for some deep dives into these topics. If you're a technical writer and want to keep on top of the latest trends in the field, be sure to subscribe to email updates. You can also learn more about me or contact me.