One of my favorite sites, Digg, recently made a subtle change to their top nav. They moved the navigation element for the link to the RSS reader from the left of the page to the right.

Clearly, they did this to emphasize their video product, which is now where the RSS product (“Reader”) was.

My typical Digg behavior is to quickly scan the top stories, and then go to my RSS feed, via clicking the Reader link. It was a habit I had developed a sort of muscle memory around.

Since the recent nav switch, I now have to look around for the “Reader” link. I’ll get used to it, of course, but why should I have to?

Why can I not manipulate the order of the Nav items in the same way I customize my browser bar? In this manner, I could simply drag the “Reader” link back where it was, and where I want it, and – yes – subjugate the Video product (which I doubt I’ll ever use).

Certainly, the tech is available for this type of implementation.

Beyond the relative technical ease of such UI/UX implementation, there could be a lot of useful learnings to be gleaned.

As web developers, we make a lot of assumptions. Some are based on “best” practices and heat maps, etc., and some are based on experience, and many – as I suggest Digg’s recent change was – are based on business objectives (i.e. highlighting assets). However, as we do with so many business assumptions, we make our SWAGs (sophisticated wild ass guesses) and then – over time – learn what customers want by observing how they are interacting with our products.

It seems to me that observing how people re-arrange certain elements of a website – top nav, in particular – could, therefore, not only serve the purpose of allowing users to customize a site in a manner that works best for them, but also provide valuable optimization information to companies based on actual usage.

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It was one of the highest honors of my life to present – along with the indomitable Rita Moreno – the Commencement Speech at Berklee’s 2016 Graduation Ceremony.

A number of people have asked me for copies of the speech, and, so, here it is. It was never really meant to be read (but, rather, spoken), so please forgive any grammar irregularities. Additionally, as the video embed of the speech shows, I improvised a bit from what I wrote.

More Art Equals Less War: Berklee College of Music 2016 Commencement Speech

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