What do Vasco de Gama, Ferdinand Magellan, Henry Hudson, in-car GPS systems, and Vimeo users have in common? They’re all navigators. While Vimeo visitors might not be searching for new spice trade routes, they are surfing the digital waters in search of great videos to watch, video upload and hosting tools, and straight-up inspiration. And just as GPS and satellites have made navigation easier for those on the high seas, a redesigned navigation ensured the Vimeo website was as easy and intuitive as possible.
In 2015 Vimeo was going through changes. We were redesigning every major page on the site. To set us up for success the site navigation needed to be streamlined. It was non-responsive, inconsistent between different pages, and had an outdated taxonomy.
Site navigation touches every page and impacts every aspect of the business, I took lead from a design and product perspective. This was as much an exercise in diplomacy as design. Believing we could make significant improvements and real impact, I laid out the goals.
The original Vimeo navigation mixed video discovery and creator tools. We knew from user interviews and ethnographic research that Vimeo users fell into only one of two categories: viewers or uploaders. When we looked into where people were clicking we knew our suspicions were right. People were only clicking on a few links in the nav. Borrowing advice from Elmore Leonard I wanted to take out the parts people tend to skip.
Vimeo had a discovery challenge. Content is mostly short form and does not have the normal metadata that viewers are used to. Missing are the half hour comedies or hour long dramas. Contextualizing videos in categories people understand signals the kind of content on the platform.
With improved discovery making up the left hand side of the nav, creator tools could be organized together on the right. The links users were already clicking on were organized under the user avatar: videos, stats, settings and other user-centric pages.
When the Vimeo On Demand platform was launched it had its own navigation to keep premium content contained in its own marketplace, separate from the free content. Over time this separation felt unnecessary as users understood the mix of content. The new navigation was the first step in integrating premium and free content discovery.
That meant a single nav for every page. The simplified design made it easier to skin on custom pages. In the end four distinct versions of the nav were supported: default, transparent, Vimeo On Demand, and custom styled.
Separately, a group of engineers were building a cross-platform notification engine. As mobile traffic grew we saw that notifications were a great way to encourage re-engagement and keep users coming back. This menu in the nav was designed to be modular so the new nav could rollout before notifications were finished.
To ensure the goals were being met and understand what changes had real impact I proposed a staggered rollout.
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