I had an interesting conversation with Jeff, one of our lead developers, yesterday and wanted to share some of it. Jeff approached to ask about tag based navigation as compared to traditional hierarchal navigation. There is a tremendous opportunity for website owners to implement a new style of architechure that allows them to have more freedom to create content while making it easier for users of the site to find what they are looking for.
Traditional Web 1.0 Hierarchal Based Architecture
Most sites utilize a list of links along the left side or along the top of the design. When you click into one of these content sections, you are usually presented with some new links that are sub-content sections (we call them secondary navigation). This structure can be visually represented as an organization chart:
Web 2.0 Tag Based Architecture
Tags are all the rage in the web 2.0 world. It allows editors and readers to add meaningful context to content. For example, if I see a picture of a kid skateboarding, I might tag it “skating” and “teenager”. Someone else might tag it “park”, “skate boarding”, and “wheels”. Our individual tags have meaning to us, but they could also have meanings to others. If a third user was searching for “skate boarding” or “teenager”, the photo would come up due to us tagging it.
These tags can be used to replace traditional top level navigation. If the website is full of content, trying to lead the visitor through a hierarchy, which made sense to the webmaster at the time, may not make sense to the end user. Instead, it is easier to tag all the content with relevant keywords and provide a search box. When content is returned and viewed, the tags are prominently displayed. A visitor can then click on a tag to see all content tagged with that keyword or browse a list of related keywords. This could be visually represented more as a cloud:
This architecture doesn’t make sense for all sites. But if your site has a wealth of content, this could be a very powerful way to organize it.