Making Tabs Work For You

Apr 9th, 2009 | By | Category: Conversion and Persuasion, Featured, Headline, Research

UI Designer David Leggett wrote an interesting article recently, “Tabbed Navigation, and What Makes It Useful“. His first, and best, point is a physical observance: in a real-world store one has a sense of the physical size of the establishment the moment one enters the store, whereas online there’s no way to estimate the relative size of the enterpise by a quick visual size of its sheer volume of space.

Is it Walmart-ish? Is it a Mom’n’Pop? And does it even matter, if they have what I’m looking for? That’s just an outright good point to keep in mind, even when tabs aren’t involved.

Of course, lack of physicality also manifests as the “great leveler” that allowed an to compete with Barnes and Noble and all the other bookstore chains. It’s also the driver as to why a singular fellow like Matt Drudge (from or Craig Newmark (from give the Associated Press and other news orgs at the Newspaper Association of America a hissy fit.

While there’s a few points I think I’d debate with David over a beer or coffee — such as, “Tabs Can Connect With Secondary Navigation”, to which I’d ask, “well, how did the visitor get to the point where they needed the Navigation after they got their bearings anyway? Doesn’t that imply a lack of (or broken) persuasive engagement with the content? And therefore tabs are operating more like a crutch for someone with a busted leg: a way to re-enable mobility when it’s broken, rather than a vehicle to increase velocity” — I think the conversation itself would be a lot of fun.

Check it out! It’s a 5 minute read and well-worth your coffee break time.

7 Comments to “Making Tabs Work For You”

  1. Andrew Eldon says:

    Erm – your own navigation uses the Tab technique. Are you saying that your site lacks persuasive engagement?

    If I’m honest – I always found the navigation in your blog a little confusing. What’s the difference between a Post and an Article?



  2. John Quarto-vonTivadar says:

    an article is a long post usually with a lot more research and having gone through several edits.

    As for your first point, I think you missed what I was trying to say. As Navigation is one of the least-used parts of a website’s with higher-than-average conversion rates, it does not make sense to plan for Navigational use as the primary path. Rather it should be used when people feel they get “lost” and are looking for a sign marker for getting back onto a path. Most sites use tabs AS the path itself. I hope that makes better sense.

    As for our own navigation on GrokDotCom, you may (or may not?) have noticed that the navigation matches that of our parent for-profit company,

    We felt that the concept of a Blog was endemic enough that folks would know how a blog content site with it’s short one-click paths and “pick it and read it” approach) differs from a lead-gen or retail site. So if they actually used Navigation we found that indicated they were on a different mental path entirely searching for some of our consulting or our OnTarget website optimization service. So that’s where we take them.

    Thanks for reading! :)

  3. Andrew Eldon says:

    Hi John,

    Thanks for the reply and the clarification. I have a better understanding of your point now.

    The extension of the FutureNow site into Grokdotcom was certainly not lost on me. I would still contend that as a user the difference between Articles and Posts is not big enough to highlight (in my opinion). As a reader of many blogs, this is the first place where I see this distinction made and I just assume that I am reading a longer blog post.

    Trivial in the grand scheme of things. I certainly think you guys know what you’re doing and I love reading the blog – so keep ‘em coming.

    Have a great weekend.


  4. Great job you assist me alot

  5. Mozil says:

    is ther a php guide that help with that?

  6. I think you can find at bay

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