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Recording of my WTD Portland 2017 presentation on Building navigation for your doc site -- 5 best practices

by Tom Johnson on Jun 8, 2017
categories: findability podcasts

Here's the recording of the presentation I gave at the Write the Docs 2017 Portland conference. The presentation explores best practices for doc navigation, including principles such as hierarchy, modularity, progressive disclosure, entry point, and wayfinding. The presentation is about 20 minutes long, and you can either watch a video or listen to audio. Other WTD presentation recordings are also available.

Audio only

If you just want the audio, here it is:

Listen to this presentation:

You can also download the MP3 file, subscribe in iTunes, or listen with Stitcher.


Here are the slides:

Presentation description

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.

More resources

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

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.

About Tom Johnson

Tom Johnson

I'm an API technical writer based in the Seattle area. On this blog, I write about topics related to technical writing and communication — such as software documentation, API documentation, AI, information architecture, content strategy, writing processes, plain language, tech comm careers, and more. Check out my API documentation course if you're looking for more info about documenting APIs. Or see my posts on AI and AI course section for more on the latest in AI and tech comm.

If you're a technical writer and want to keep on top of the latest trends in the tech comm, be sure to subscribe to email updates below. You can also learn more about me or contact me. Finally, note that the opinions I express on my blog are my own points of view, not that of my employer.