In search of task-driven navigation

We have a department of selling to the customer, a department of marketing to the customer, a department of communicating at the customer. We have a department of dealing with customer complaints. But we have no department OF the customer. Source: Gerry McGovern

And this Gerry is why we still have a proliferation of topic or persona-based navigation systems. Topic-based navigation menus are a more traditional method of IA and often follow the working hierarchy of an organization (aka departments). They are the easy option, each department or area gets a section of the website to control.

Topic-based navigation can work well in certain situations — it is often well suited to situations where users want to find things out, eg.content sites. However, when a navigation mimics the organizational configuration of a company, any re-organisation within the company requires the navigation to change also.

Some of the failings of using persona-based navigation are as follows:
- People don’t always like to put themselves into a particular group. They come with a task in mind, having to process which persona that task fits into is a waste of time.
- People can belong to multiple groups. 
- Persona-based navigation can create duplicate content, where specially written content is required for each persona. In some situations the user ends up on a generic page that is the same end point for every persona.

On the flip-side, Task-based interfaces tend to suit situations where users need to get things done, there is also strong user-driven evidence that task-based navigation tends to facilitate learning.

Most importantly, task-based ensures that users can quickly and easily complete their most important tasks. Creating navigation systems that work for customers is all about seeing the product from their point of view. Their expectations need to be discovered and continuously monitored, to make their navigation journey as efficient and painless as possible.