PsychNology Journal, Volume 4, Number 1, 7 – 24

Navigating Information Space: Web site design and lessons from the built environment

David Benyon
Human Computer Interaction Centre, Napier University, Edinburgh (UK)



The Web is the archetypal information space but even on a well designed site it can be difficult to find all the information you need. It is impossible to design a site so that all the information needs of all the users of the site are satisfied on a single screen. Accordingly people have to pick up information from a variety of sources; they move through the information space to gather all the information that is required. This is generally called ‘navigation’. Navigation is concerned with finding out about, and moving through, an environment. Of course there is a long history of designing for navigation in physical spaces. Architects, urban planners, geographers and others have studied navigation and learnt how to design physical spaces to help people find the place they are looking for, to enjoy exploration for its own sake, or to help find their way through a space to get somewhere else. The question arises as to whether we can leverage any of this knowledge for the design of information spaces such as Web sites. In this paper we review a variety of views on navigation of physical space to see how this knowledge might transfer to the design of information spaces. The example of using Gordon Cullen’s serial vision theory to design a Web site map is used to show the transfer of knowledge from the design of urban space to the design of digital space. Guidelines for good Web site design and examples of how social navigation can be used within Web sites are provided.



Navigation, information space, urban planning, built environments, environmental psychology, Web site design.


Benyon D. (2006). Navigating Information Space: Web site design and lessons from the built environment. PsychNology Journal, 4(1), 7 – 24. Retrieved [month] [day], [year], from

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