Designing Web Navigation



James Kalbach succeeds in bringing together the fundamental components that determine great, and not-so-great, user interfaces. The UI itself must always be respected and the author illustrates exactly why in the journey the book takes us on.

What the book does is show how this can be achieved, from the past, notably from the present and into the future. The illustrations are in colour (critically important for any design book) and give clarity to the text’s important insights.


In his book, Kalbach manages to frame the complex design practice of building websites by analysing the building blocks of the process. He covers usability, research, information architecture and interaction design (amongst others) all with well researched quotes from the who’s who of the UX world. For any student who wants to become a part of this industry this book is invaluable.

For those who have been involved in the industry for years its a valuable reference book for meetings where you are challenged by the ignorant yet persuasive. It is always great to have a book that has been so well-researched that it becomes undeniably powerful in its authority. Evidence based design is irrefutable and arguing against it only proves the frailties of the objector’s opinion. Just to have the references cited here is enough for your armoury when dealing with that difficult question or situation.

Something that must be said is the accessibility of this book’s reading style. There are many complex concepts that are written here, and many contributors from specialists in different fields, but the message conveyed is always easily understood. By having so many individuals participating you feel that the author has collaborated with some brilliant minds and in doing so has produced a brilliant book with great clarity – and that’s so important here.

Each chapter closes with questions that make you think and exercises that will challenge and push you. It is a fun and interesting way to reassert the summary that Kalbach makes in each chapter. It is not a coding book, but then it shouldn’t be. The technology is not the focus here, the user is and that is what is key to the book.

It may not set you alight if you are looking for inspiration, but I feel that is not the purpose of this book. If anything, it is a carefully considered manual of the processes and applications of specialisms that need to be involved in building successful websites. Some have argued there isn’t enough personality from the author in the book. However, one assumes this is a conscious decision as it would only detract from the importance and objectivity of the statements made.

To undermine the importance of navigation is like undermining the importance of findability, and the point of the Internet itself. Information discovery is made possible  through navigable elements, this discovery is aided if they are intuitively designed and feel right to the user. In the age of agile, it is more important than ever that we as a group of professionals do not lose sight of where we have come from as we propel ourselves beyond the Web 2.0 world.

To have books like this define our discipline’s design history, and it gives it more credence. By doing that we set a positive course towards the future where more people gain an understanding of the challenges and opportunities that occur in designing our future online interactions.

Verdict: Its a classic and truly indispensable in the user experience library. Well researched, well executed and as comprehensive as you can imagine. A holistic view on the art and science of web design.

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