Organize Your Website

"A well-organized, easy-to-navigate structure is the foundation for a successful website."

Website Organization: Information Architecture

Your website’s users will have to “live” inside your website for a period of time. Because of this, some real-world architectural principles apply to website planning. A sense of context and “place” helps users find what they’re looking for. When we talk about the architecture of a website, we’re talking about the hierarchy of its navigation and its structure. We’re not talking about graphics, text or anything cosmetic.

Planning Your Architecture

There is no one right way to plan the architecture for a website. Depending on the size of the website, the possibilities are relative to the organization. 

When picking your method of architecture planning, consider these things:

  • How big is the website?
  • What type of website is it?
  • What is your organizations workflow.

A few tips on architecture planning:

  • Organize content according to user needs, not an organizational chart or how the client structures their company.
  • Give pages clear and succinct names.
  • Think of your typical users and imagine them navigating the website. What would they be looking for?
  • If you can’t succinctly explain why a page would be useful to someone, omit it.
  • Plan the architecture around the content. Don’t write content to fit the architecture.
  •  Always remember the true goals of the website.
  • Not everything has to be a page. Use your hierarchy of content as a guide. Some items might work better as an FAQ entry or as sidebar content. Make sure your planning method keeps this in context.

Step 1: Develop an Information Architecture

Information architecture is the science of figuring out what you want your site to do and then constructing a blueprint before you dive in and put the thing together. 

You will need to answer two questions:

  1. What pieces of content does the site need?
  2. What sorts of functionality will be required?

Think of it this way: If you want to build a spaceship out of Legos, you need to pick out all of the pieces you will be using. These pieces represent the content. If you want your Legos to do things, you need to choose which motors and processors you need. These pieces represent the functionality.

Start off by creating a text-based, hierarchical map of the site, also called a site structure listing. Within this site structure listing begin to define the navigation, making sure to consider how users will use the site, how they will get from one topic to another, and making sure that the navigation structure you choose will prevent them from getting lost.  Click here to see a example of a site structure listing.

In this example, the homepage has a listing of categories. These categories would be the site navigation and the sub- categories would be how the information is organized within the site navigation. This is a very simplified example of a site structure listing, your sites listing could be as simplified or as complex your organizational structure. 

Step 2: Organize Your Content

Before moving your content into a new site, we encourage you to take stock of what content exists on your current site and develop a plan for migrating it. Performing a content inventory and analysis is an excellent way to determine what content you have on your site, what needs to be updated, what can be removed, and what new content you need to create.  

Although any site can benefit from this exercise, this process is especially important for large and complex websites, and for sites that have existed for several years. These sites will commonly have pages that are out-of-date or no longer needed. 

Within your site's inventory and analysis, label the content inventory indicating the OUCH status, the owner of the content, and a notes section to elaborate on the status of the content of each page.

  1. OUCH status
    O = Out-of-date. Content that is still useful and will move to the new site, but should be updated.
    U = Unnecessary. Content that is not needed at all. It should not be moved to the new site.
    C = Current. Content that is fine as is, up-to-date, and just needs to be moved to the new site.
    H = Have to write. H will not be used on your first pass of the content inventory, so nothing on the inventory of the current site should be marked H. 

Click here to download an example of a content inventory checklist.