I’m sad I can’t claim a Norwegian origin for the expression “spending money like a drunken sailor” (more frequently used in English, Mr. Google says). But maybe it’s more instantly recognized here. After all, over the years there have been plenty of drunken Norwegian sailors spending their hard-earned money in unadvisable ways. Let’s just say there’s something here that might help explain why Norwegian news websites stumbled over a highly original approach to web navigation. Have a look at the three leading sites, VG, Dagbladet and Nettavisen. Start with quantity. There is no shortage of links, right? On Dagbladet’s homepage I counted well over 300 before I gave up. Nytimes.com has around 100 less. Then look at consistency and logic. Isn’t that what usability experts teach us – don’t confuse the user with unclear hierarchies and navigation tools that disappear? Well, a couple of clicks on Dagbladet.no and you have already encountered numerous different navigation bars, horisontal, vertical – all there. You don’t have to drill deep (nice dotcom term!) to reach sedimentary layers of Dagbladet.no’s old navigation layout (example).
There’s another argument, where Norwegian press tradition connects with those websites’ design and navigation. A sober, logically arranged, correct look would send the wrong signals – lofty, intellectual, cultural, and worst of all, boring. In Norwegian printed newspapers, high and low are always mixed. Sophisticated political reporting next to the most horrid crime stories. An aversion to cultural analysis, and a love of sports analysis. The most successful websites replicate the model online.
Many of those sites also long ago grasped the dynamic that Steve Outing describes: That you need to give users lots of choices also on story level, and possibly display lots of links from the homepage on lower level pages. Now that development gains new momentum from the expanding use of rss feeds etc.
So even the drunken sailor theory has some logic. Still I want to believe that the force of gravity still works – that the beauty of logical navigation wins in the long run. That’s a challenge to Norwegian websites: A drunken sailor also deserves some guidance.