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Does a text or icon menu work best for desktop users?

WhichTestWon's Analysis: (Click back to see versions A & B)

– Case Study –

Should the navigational format on the desktop be consistent with the mobile experience? That’s the question the multinational computer technology corporation, Intel, examined in this in-house test.
The study ran for 2 weeks on the Adobe Target platform, splitting traffic 50/50. Over 225,000 desktop visitors saw either Version A, the traditional text-based navigation bar, or, Version B, the icon-based “hamburger” navigation menu.

The testing team hypothesized that the hamburger navigation, typically used for mobile, would increase user engagement, since it would create a more seamless cross-device user experience.

Winner: Version A – Compared to the hamburger format, the standard navigation bar drove a 15.8% uplift in menu clicks, at 99.9% confidence.

Think about your online reading habits.

If you’re quickly perusing an article or two on your way to work, you likely rely on your phone – maybe your tablet – to get this done. It’s quick, easy to hold, clear to read – it’s simply convenient

But what happens when you want to spend more time reading articles across a variety of topics. Whether for work or play, a mere skim doesn’t cut it. And you likely switch over to your desktop or laptop to do this.

Why? Because it’s far more convenient. You’re in research mode, so you want to have wider viewability. You want to see all the trending articles. You want to open a bagillion tabs – one for every potentially interesting article.

Now imagine a world (one that existed not so long ago) when, on your commute to work, the teeny website on your phone was exactly the same as the one that loaded on your computer. Just imagine the amount of zooming, side scrolling, accidental clicks and swipes it would take before you actually made it through a single article.

Now consider the reverse – a world where, when you wanted to sit down at your computer and get a thorough understanding of today’s news, you had to constantly open a hamburger menu to navigate. All you could see is the single article in question and nothing else – no other topics or trending articles. You’d probably have carpel tunnel by the end of the day.

My point in triggering your imagination with these examples is that users have different habits and expectations across different devices. As evident by Intel’s test results, creating the same cross-device experience is not what they’re are looking for.

Think back to The McClatchy Company study we published a couple months back. The study concluded that navigation bars should be unique to the device, in question, as the device can often translate to users’ browsing ‘state-of-mind’ at any point in time. In other words, a one-size-fits-all solution simply doesn’t work.

But hold the phone. To clarify, we are not saying that marketers should abandon their attempts to create a seamless, cross-channel browsing experience. (They shouldn’t.) As we explain in our People-Based Marketing episode of the Behavioral Playbook, marketers should understand the individual expectations of their users and develop consistent experiences across any and every device or channel.

And in this case, consistent doesn’t mean exactly the same but ‘undeviating’. That is to say, if your desktop navigation options includes Topics, Tests, and Studies, your mobile navigation should offer those same options. There should be no deviation. However, considering the unique expectations of a desktop user as compared to a mobile one, those navigation menus should probably be presented in different ways.

Ultimately, it boils down to understanding your audience, their expectations, and their needs across every device and channel. With that information, you’ll be well on your way to creating a truly seamless, cross-channel experience for your business.

Actionable Takeaways:

Users have different expectations across different devices. A consistent browsing experience across all devices may confuse the user because user mindset is different on each device. The navigational format needs to meet user expectations. Creating the same cross-device experience is not what they’re are looking for.

Device dictates browsing mode. The device your user is on dictates their browsing needs. A person on a desktop device has much different reading needs than a mobile user. Nav bars need to be different for each device because people are in different browsing modes.

Keep striving for cross-channel. Creating different navigational formats doesn’t mean altering content across your desktop and mobile sites. It simply means considering the needs and expectations of your users and catering the information to their formatting needs.

Why do you think different users have different needs and expectations on different devices?

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Winning Version


Reader Guesses:

Which Test Won?

  • Version A
  • Version B
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