Linear navigation diagram
Using linear navigationAny time that you want your visitor to follow a bread crumb trail through your site you can use linear navigation. This way you can direct your visitors step-by-step or page-by-page toward whatever goal you have in mind. Above is a graphic diagram of how a linear navigation scheme is linked. As you can see one page of content follows another by direct links. But, keep in mind that your visitor can opt-out at any time by using their browser buttons so keep each page brief and to the point.
Arrange your webpage links so that they only permit movement in a straight line from one page to another. By doing this you are setting up your website basic layout in such a way as to compel the visitor to start at one end and continue to a conclusion. This is straight line (i.e. linear) navigation.
Linear reciprocal navigationSometimes you might want your visitor to view a thread of information in a linear fashion with the option of back clicking. This is where reciprocal linking works well. Below is a diagram that explains how this is done.
Linear reciprocal navigation diagramReciprocal navigation, just like linear navigation, follows a straight line through a website. But, it allows the visitor to move back and forth between a series of pages. Just setup your links with a start page an end page and links tying the pages together that lie between them. This will keep your visitor in one area of your website until they decide to opt out. Basically this is how a browser works. The back and forward buttons in the toolbar perform this reciprocal function. You can move forward or back in your browser window but always in a straight line.
Linear navigation vs contentLinear navigation is only a tool to help webmasters present their message, not an end in itself. It is the content that you provide to your visitors which is the key to designing a website that grows and expands across the internet.
You can have the most innovative and original navigation model on the Web but, if your content is lacking and doesn't satisfy the people who visit your site it won't matter. Your visitors are looking for information and your website content must provide that information or your site will fail.
How you present your ideas and message to the people who visit your website is in large part determined by your choice of navigation model. A concise and intuitive navigation scheme should be your goal. The next type of website navigation we will study is database navigation.