The Context Bar
28 May 2009
The visual anchor of Publicculture.org’s new design is a stark, horizontal black bar separating the site’s overall branding and navigation from the content of any given page. Throughout the site (except on the home page), this bar is used to provide orienting information and contextually-relevant links.
Because Publicculture.org doesn’t have a very deep hierarchy, and because it’s possible to find and surface our content from a variety of contexts, the traditional breadcrumb element found on many websites simply wouldn’t work here. The functions it performs are important, though, and so we had to find a viable alternative.
The “context bar” is our answer. Like a breadcrumb, it tells you very quickly where you are. But it’s a bit more flexible. It can invite you to travel not only upward, to “higher-level” pages, but also laterally and relationally (for example, to similar views or related content). Most importantly, it can highlight contextually-relevant actions, like asking you to join the mailing list when you’re reading a news item or a newsletter issue.
We’ll continue working to refine the context bar to make it as intuitive and as useful as possible for the site’s users. If you’ve got comments, or suggestions on how we can improve it, we’d be delighted to hear them.