Authors of hypertextual pieces, such as webtexts, are
challenged to find ways to orient readers in order to help them read efficiently
and find their way around the text (Landow, 1989). Readers can become “lost in hyperspace”—a
disorienting experience in which readers cannot determine where they are
in relation to the information contained in the text, or how to return to
a previously viewed node or find a node they think exists (Conklin, 1987).
A significant method for enhancing reader orientation includes the incorporation
of an overview or introductory node, textual or graphical webviews, and explicit
navigation directions—instructions for moving through the text.
An effectively designed textual overview (often labeled “overview,” “starting
point,” or “introduction”) provides a context and exigence
for the main argument, much like a print-based introduction. However, distinct
from a print-based introduction, a web-based overview will also provide form-based
information such as a “webview”—a textual or visual representation
of the structure of the text—as well as directions for navigating the
text. Visual representations—or “webviews” of the structure
within the hypertext, such as concept or site maps, and directories (for
example, a menu bar) are immediately accessible to readers and help readers
understand their current location within the structure of information. Moreover,
a consistent visual design strategy (e.g., consistent placement of navigation
links within each node or a consistent use of color) provides readers with
cues for navigating the text (see the sub-section on visual design for further
information regarding this strategy). Hypertext authors may flaunt conventions
associated with clear navigation for a specific rhetorical effect such as
purposely creating an exploratory or disorienting reading experience enacted
by the form, several examples of which exist in hypertext fiction. In general,
however, scholars promote facilitating navigation and preventing disorientation
as a rule of thumb (Carter, 1997, p. 44).
A majority of “rhetorics” of online writing emphasize several
aspects of navigation design—in addition to those discussed directly
in this section—that contribute to the construction of an effective
web-based presentation, including: strategies for constructing links, nodes,
and overall visual design. While all are inter-related (a clear link strategy,
for example, contributes to a solid navigation design as the discussion below
will show), each can be explored for their specific role in helping to construct
a “reader-friendly” text. Question 7 in Category B of the assessment
tool is designed to evaluate the extent to which webtexts incorporate an
effective navigation design:
Question 7: Navigational design
- The webtext includes an overview or starting node that contextualizes
the main argument.
- The webtext does not include an overview or starting node.
b) Textual or graphical webviews
- The webtext includes textual or graphical webviews that provide direct
link access to main nodes as well as show a fair extent of the web.
- The webtext does not include textual or graphical webviews.
c) Navigation directions
- The webtext includes directions for navigating the text.
- The webtext does not include directions for navigating the text.