Organic navigation

Organic navigation is a way of developing a site’s information architecture through use and hyperlinking from each document. This is a bottom-up approach, in contrast to a more traditional top-down hierarchical approach where we look at existing strucutres and new structures without going in depth with the content.

Recently I’ve become interested in this approach to developing the information architecture and navigation for websites. It is a breeze if you’re using wiki-style links and an text editor like Obsidian, where typing a double-bracket opens a search of all your documents, you keep typing until you hit the right document, hit return and you have a link. Although Obsidian makes it easier, it is the mindset of organic navigation that is most important.

If your document doesn’t show up in the search, you can type the title of a new document, follow the link and you’ve just created a new page.

Designing the information for a website this way allows us to create links to pages when needed, often we find that we need some new pages, and can get rid of some old ones. But most importantly, we can loose a lot of unhelpful repeated information.

As users, we often look for specific, small bits of information. A more atomic approach to content modelling lets us transclude content where it is needed – and that may be in more than one place. For instance, every ‘event page’ might need some general information about tickets. This general ‘tickets article’ could then be transcluded on the page, meaning that the user would not have to leave their context to find the information they need.