IA Design & Usability: Steven Heitman, Sr. User/Design Researcher, Information Architect, User Experience Designer, Project/Product Manager, Mentor, Usability Expert/Testing, Director

Sr. User/Design Researcher / Information Architect Specialist

User Experience Designer


The NS Model

What is The NS—Navigational Systems—Model?

It is about designing effective Navigational Systems for people (end users) who use Websites. The reason an Information Architect adds value to corporate Websites is that in the long run (doing Information Architecture) it saves corporations time and money.

Making Websites usable for people who use them. Information Architecture, coupled with Navigational Systems, derived from specific design research and then applied to specific Websites means end users can more effectively use Websites.

A Website is structured with Navigational Systems specific to interaction design needs specific to the overall structure provides end users with a Website easy to use.

The NS Model is a systematic approach, when followed, determines a high-success rate from start-to-finish, regarding Websites and other digital design products.

The NS Model

A systematic approach for designing navigation systems—for simple to complex Websites and apps:
  1. Hierarchical Navigational Systems
  2. Global Navigational Systems
  3. Local Navigational Systems
  4. Integrated Navigational Systems
  5. Remote Navigational Systems
  6. Ad Hoc Navigational Systems
  7. Search Engines in Websites
Navigational Systems designed effectively promote user-centered design and built-in affordances, enabling end users to navigate successfully, without getting lost in cyberspace.

An Information Architect adds value because designing Websites that work both effectively and saves end users time; in the long run, this saves corporations money.

Navigation Design

How do you design Navigational Systems for a Website?

By doing IA Research, doing wire frame mockups and prototyping. Then figuring out what works right for end users.

Relevant Design Patterns

It provides a systematic approach for doing specific Information Architecture-design research regarding Navigational Systems, and it helps in an iterative design process to communicate to others and do high-quality work.

If a good model and systematic approach is followed, then it provides a solid framework for every person on the team.

Using a model is an excellent way to communicate and document conceptual ideas. It enables researchers to do brainstorming and create good designs.

With regard to different components for building Navigational Systems that allow for enhanced usability for end users.

The NS Model is a significant component to user-centered design for digital design products (Websites). Navigational Systems designed properly enable end users instant access of information on Websites.

Allow for Quick Access

Websites on the World Wide Web provide instant access of information to the end user (provided that the end user has instant Internet access). Since the point of having documentation online is for “immediate informational gratification,” the end user must be able to retrieve the information from Websites.

This is accomplished, if the design of the Navigational Systems are done correctly; that means that they help the end user to navigate effectively through Websites in cyberspace.

In Designing and Writing Online Documentation, William Horton asserts that: “Good online documentation systems [coupled with the design of effective Navigational Systems and Information Architecture] overcome one of the most common objections to paper books, namely, that it takes too long to find information. It is a poor online…system that does not answer questions at least twice as fast as the paper documentation” (8:6).

Effective User-Centered Design

The design of Navigational Systems that work effectively in Websites support the end user better because the end user relies on online documentation rather than printed materials or manuals. According to William Horton:

The strongest benefit of online documentation, however, is successful communication. Although difficult to measure accurately, this benefit often exceeds savings in production costs:

One online documentation project at Chevron projected savings of less than $1,000 in printing and updating costs but over $44,000 in time required for training, looking up information, and correcting errors…. [An]…online consultation system at IBM’s Endicot Laboratory helped users answer 35 percent [35%] more of users’ questions.

The U.S. military’s Personal Electronic Aid for Maintenance (PEAM) reduced troubleshooting errors by two-thirds for the Army and by five-sixths for the Navy.

It reduced the time it took tank mechanics to learn to use paper manuals from several days to minutes [because they were able to quickly retrieve the information online]. It elevated the performance levels of inexperienced technicians to near that of experienced technicians (8:6-7).

Getting Around Online

Even though many Web browsers have built-in navigational features, they lack significant Navigational Systems. When used for navigating, the end user needs Navigational Systems that work effectively in a Website. Otherwise quick retrieval of information is impossible. According to the authors of Information Architecture for the World Wide Web, they assert:

When designing a navigation system [or navigational systems], it is important to consider the environment the system will exist in. On the Web, people use web browsers such as Netscape [Navigator] and Microsoft Internet Explorer to move around and view Websites, including Safari, Firefox, or Google Chrome.

These browsers sport many built-in navigational features (10:48). The design, form, and function of a Website must be cohesively integrated with many different types of Navigational Systems that help to establish a clear hierarchy in the Website, as well as a coherent path in which the information is disseminated. It also enhances navigation and makes navigating easier for the end user (10:48-50).

Systematic Professional Approach

Many Navigational Systems may be integrated and used in conjunction with a Web browser. Websites require Navigational Systems because the end user will have great difficulty in navigating in or out of a Website (6:13).

According to Jennifer Fleming in Web Navigation, the ten principles of good navigation are to:

Be easily learned
Remain consistent
Provide feedback
Appear in context
Offer alternatives
Require an economy of action and time
Provide clear visual messages
Use clear and understandable labels
Be appropriate to the site’s purpose
Support end users goals and behaviors (6:13)

The design and use of effective Navigational Systems in Websites that helps to structure the textual elements or graphical contents of Websites.

The Web designer must integrate all of the elements of Navigational Systems that they work efficiently and are ascetically pleasing.

The ability to effectively wayfind and the perceptual, psychological, cognitive, or mental ability of sense-making in cyberspace are dependent upon Navigational Systems that assist the end user in finding information online.

Wayfinding and sense-making mean that the end user can move from point A to point B in cyberspace or a Website or subsite, without puzzlement or getting lost.

Understanding Navigational Systems and Information Architecture—in terms of navigation and wayfinding, mean that end users can use Websites. (2; 4:35-58; 8:15-34; 9:11-14).

Successful User/Design Research

After the research was completed and information distilled, it was determined that there were seven Navigational Systems used for the design of Navigational Systems.

For effective navigation within a Website, Navigational Systems are integrated together. Research revealed these seven commonly used Navigational Systems.

The NS Model was developed by Steven Heitman, Senior User Researcher and Information Architect (IA) Specialist, during his development and research phases for the MAIA Dissertation and Online NS Tutorial.

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Steven Heitman
IA Design & Usability

Sr. User/Design Researcher
Information Architect
User Experience Designer
Interaction Designer
Product Designer
User-Centered Designer
Usability Tester
Technical Writer
Corporate Trainer
Project/Product Manager

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Updated: March 1, 2022