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Tabbed navigation didn’t work on our site

I was using tabbed navigation on a couple of the Suffolk Libraries website pages. By tabbed navigation I mean a single document’s content divided by horizontal tabs, so you don’t see it all at once.

It’ll look something like this:

Tabbed navigation within a page

Tabbed navigation used to break up a single document.

Tabs might seem a good idea because they break content up, thereby making it easier to interpret. But it’s the single design element that got the most complaints after my redesign.

It’s not that users didn’t get how to use the tabs (although initial testing indicated the labels had to be clearly styled as links – in the picture above, users might have struggled identifying the tabs). No, it was simply because tabs can break the back button. Users see each tab as a separate page, when in reality they’re just parts of the same, single page. Although it might seem boring, I found in most cases it makes users’ lives a lot easier if you actually make each tab a separate page, or plump for a single, long document, and find other ways to present it.