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Template DHTML Menu's YEAH BABY.

For those of you who are savvy enough to implement these.

We use the Heirarchical Menus from DHTML Lab a lot at work. With a bit of work I've found you can template these menu's. This is the syntax:

HM_Array2_1 = [
[]

{$ foreach x in (condition) $}
,"{$x.headline$}","{$x.link$}",1,0,1],
{$next$}

]


You can't template the WHOLE menu, but you can template sections of it. The link is:

http://www.webreference.com/dhtml/

I'll be very disappointed if I don't see a large number of CityDesk site with DHTML Menu's now. ;)

Mark W
Friday, February 08, 2002

from a usability perspective, in many sites, DHTML menus reduce the ability of the user to achieve a goal. My studies (available only in french) have shown that they work only for sites aimed at techno-savvy users who come often on the site, so they can memorize the content of menus. (e.g site that delivers statistics for your own website, which is used by webmasters nearly daily).

Bur for "everyday sites", DHTML menus will more be likely to reduce usability for large groups of users.

DHTML menus are less rememberable (? is that correct ?) than successive html menus. And the analogy with software doesn't work, for two reasons:

1) people have no time to spend learning how your site works, but they may do little effort to learn the basics of a desktop software, especially if they have paid it.

2) Menus are very consistent from a desktop software to another : file, edit, view, (2 or 3 custom menus), help, and, in every menu, things are very consistent too: file --> open, close, save, save as... Edit --> cut, copy, select all, paste... DHTML menus are never consistent from a site to another, so  their "intuitive" meaning and their learnability are poor.

So I hope that people who make sites (with CD or not) will use DHTML only when it adds value to their sites, not because the script is available.

Vincent Benard
Saturday, February 09, 2002

Interesting rant.

While I agree that DHTML menu's aren't necessarily user friendly (try telling Microsoft that. Just why is "preferences" always under edit?, except when it's under tools, or file?), a lot of people will want to use them.

Studies show that users decide what they're going to click on before they move the mouse, so if some options are hidden from them they're forced to guess which area has what they want.

As far as I'm concerned, there are arguments both ways and I'm sure CD developers will take both sides into account when developing their site.

Anyone interested in learning more about usability can check out the following links:

http://www.useit.com/

http://usableweb.com/

http://www.joelonsoftware.com/navLinks/fog0000000247.html

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1893115941/ref=nosim/joelonsoftware

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0789723107

http://dmoz.org/Computers/Internet/Web_Design_and_Development/Web_Usability/

http://www.webpagesthatsuck.com/

http://www.usability.gov/

Mark W
Saturday, February 09, 2002

I can't imagine that more than a handful of CityDesk users would really need DHTML menus. CityDesk users would be much better off concentrating on their content.

Patrick Breitenbach
Saturday, February 09, 2002

Even if it benefits only a handful of users, I think my post is relevant. As far as my statement about expecting to see a lot of CD sites with DHTML menu's... that was tongue in cheek. Sorry if I sound defensive, I'm beginning to feel attacked.

Mark W
Sunday, February 10, 2002

Don't feel attacked, it was not the purpose of my post, and sorry if you've thought that it was.

I just wanted to recall (perhaps awkwardly) that if people wanted to use the scripts and the tips that you bring to our knowledge (and knowledge is always good to take, so please continue posting tips !) they have to do it after a small reflexion about the type of site they edit, to determine if this design technique is accurate or not in their case.

Vincent Benard
Sunday, February 10, 2002

S'allright. I'm over it.

I agree though that people tend to go for the latest thing or the cool thing without thinking of the end user, which is really hard to do without some training (and often testing). The framework simply isn't there to evaluate good user-centered design.

The fact is, most people feel intimidated by technology, and when something goes wrong, they often blame themselves for not being smart enough, rather than realize that the technology wasn't designed well. If something's not blatent and obvious to the user, they're likely to get confused and frustrated.

Unfortunately, obvious to the user isn't always obvious to the designer. You come up with the labels for your links and buttons, you know what they mean. It's a rare person who can objectively ask themselves "is it obvious that this is what this does?"

The powermarks program I praised in another post has options under view. Why? Because you're "viewing" the options? Then it's got search options under tools. That might make sense to them (search is a tool and you need the options for it) but it makes little sense to me, and if those options are there, why aren't the regular options there too?

I spent a few moments looking for the options and finally found them. The frustration registered on a subliminal level and some part of me says that it's not worth it to tweak the options again.

Whenever you add a section to your site, ask yourself "is it obvious what this link is? Can I make it any more obvious?"

PS, my site most likely won't use DHTML menus, but I'll probably design a site or two that do professionally.

Mark W
Sunday, February 10, 2002

I recently implemented a site that makes use of DHTML menus for a church - definitely a "non-technical" crowd if there ever was one. The church has received numerous comments about how easy it is to navigate the site, and as far as I know no one has complained that it is too complicated or hard to understand. Of course that doesn't mean there aren't people who think that, just that they haven't voiced their complaints.

I think if we focus on the content and view the navigation as a means to an end, and not the end itself, we will be much better off.

CRC
Sunday, August 10, 2003

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