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Navigation stress test

"break it! smash it!"

Navigation stress test :: 1 of 1

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The idea of the navigation stress test comes from Keith Instone, from which all the following is freely adapted.

The technique is perhaps a little old hat now, with the greater use of faceted browsing models and such like rendering it a little simplistic: but it does still get at the basics of a navigation model - and hence is still useful and relevant for that reason.

The navigation stress test is, incidentally, a great example of a Kobayashi Maru scenario, because most pages will fail.

How to do a navigation stress test
This is easy, because the navigation stress test is all about asking the same awkward questions about a website navigation model that a user will ask themselves as they transit through their journey, namely:

  • Where am I?
  • What's here?
  • Where can I go?

To conduct a navigation stress test, do the following:

  • Pick a low-level page (not the Homepage or a Landing page) from your site
  • Print the page out in black and white, without the URL listed in the header/footer
  • Pretend that you are entering this site for the first time at this page and try to answer the questions in the table below
  • Mark-up the piece of paper with what you think the answers are


Mark up suggestions

What is this page about?

Draw a rectangle around the title of the page or write it on the paper yourself

What site is this?

Circle the site name, or write it on the paper yourself

What are the major sections of this site?

Label with X

What major section is this page in?

Draw a triangle around (what you have identified as) the X

What is "up" one level from here?

Label with U

How do I get to the home page of this site?

Label with H

How do I get to the top of this section of the site?

Label with T

What does each group of links represent?

Circle the major groups of links and label:

  • D: More details, sub-pages of this one
  • N: Nearby pages, within same section as this page
  • S: Pages on same site, but not as near
  • O: Off-site pages

How might you get to this page from the site home page?

Write the set of selections as: Choice 1 > Choice 2 > ... connect the visual elements on the page that tell you this.

Have other members of your team, and people who know nothing about your site, do the stress test too. Then compare notes. Where did you agree? Where did no one agree?

Navigation test example
Below is the result of conducting a navigatioon stress test on this page of this site. Click a thumbnail to see the big image.

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