The new Plum navigation is the result of many months of evolved product goals and work concerning what we hoped would be an optimal user experience. There were several rounds of reorganization and simplification. Each one leaving the platform more intuitive than before.
In late 2007 when I started at Plum the interface was busy. In the top 500×300 pixels of the site I counted no fewer than 27 elements that looked clickable. There were tabs, arrows, expandable areas, collapsable areas, buttons and drop-downs. All of these options gave Plum the appearance of a very complicated product. So complicated in fact, that it was hard for new users to answer the question: What does it do?
The home page of the site contained six main groups of non-uniform navigational elements. The only thing that seemed intuitive was the search bar in the upper right; a fairly standard location and function. Everything else seemed up for grabs during the redesign.
The first redesign attempt led to a cleaner site layout. The header contained global navigation, a center section held user content and the right side was reserved for related information. The navigation and interface elements, however, were still a bit jumbled.
The primary navigation consisted of Home - My Folders - People - Explore. Under this construct it was not obvious where pages like “My Profile” and “Browser Tools” should go, so they were inserted at random. Just one link out of place made an otherwise logical list seem nonsensical.
Other problems arose, too. The drop down menus were hard to click on, and were often overlooked by users.
For the next revision, drop down menus were replaced by tabs and sub links. This was done on the premise that what is initially hidden from remains largely unused, or as Eric likes to say, users rarely change defaults. Another product change happening around this time was the focus on time based activity (ie. a feed) which was a shift away from Plum’s old organizational structure, the Folder.
We de-emphasized folders, and brought user activity to the forefront by renaming Explore to Everyone. Lastly we added a “Me” tab, which could serve as a parent for both user activity and user pages such as Profile and Settings.
What we still needed, in addition to a clear and concise navigation, was a paring down of interface elements. The first to go were the view changing options. The benefits of these toggles were being negated by the clutter they added to the site. Next we removed the sorting options. Again, only sometimes useful (and it turned out that no one missed them).
Our next release will introduce Private Groups. In this version of the platform we will be removing the Friends tab. Here, friends will be implicit and require no managing on the users part. We hope this will be a big step on the path towards the ultimate goal of having a product that is mindlessly easy to use.