My latest post for The Architecture of Information highlights the differences between Mailchimp’s product and marketing website navigation structures.

Apart from aesthetic considerations — i.e., color and font choices — Mailchimp’s marketing and product sites are very different from each other. They only share two navigation elements in common: the company logo, which in both cases leads to each system’s version of “home,” and search, which presents different interfaces on either site. Everything else — including, as I’ve pointed out, the navigation bar’s position and orientation on the screen — feels very different.

It’s not unusual for such structures to be different. After all, these sites serve very different needs and create very different contexts. However, Mailchimp’s product and marketing websites are very different, and worth studying.

I’m especially interested in the fact that Mailchimp’s primary product navigation relies on icons, some of which are rather obscure. Hovering over these icons reveals labels that clarify things a bit. But is it enough? Users must learn the system’s conceptual model to use it productively. I wonder, does hiding labels hinder their ability to learn the system?

Product and Marketing Navigation — The Architecture of Information