1. Define your content
What do your site visitors want to know when they visit your website?
Ask yourself all the questions your customers could ask you at a phone call or by talking with you. Write down these questions and save them as a list, you will need them later.
Questions your customers could ask:
- Who are you?
- What can I do on this website?
- What do you offer?
- What does it look like?
- How much does it cost?
- Can I buy it online?
- Do you send it to my country?
- How long will it take?
- Can I send it back?
- Who are your customers?
- Have you won some awards?
- How good is your customer service?
- How can I contact you?
- Where are you?
- How can I reach you?
- What are the terms and conditions?
- What do you do with my personal data?
2. Define your pages
Group similar questions together and organize them in pages.
Every page should have a single topic. Don’t put unrelated questions together on a page.
3. Organize your pages
If you have a lot of pages with similar topics you will have to group them together. Organize your pages by category and create section names for your global navigation. This step is only necessary if you have pages with similar topics Don’t put unrelated categories together.
Let’s say you have many different products or services to offer. In this case it makes sense to categorize your pages and create a section called “Products” with subpages.
On the other hand, if you sell only cheese and wine it’s much better to create two pages and name them “Cheese” and “Wine” instead of creating a section called “Products”.
Categories you could create:
- Special Offers
Note: You can also organize your website by task, by user, by language, by location or by date (if you write a blog) instead of creating categories. I advise you not to organize the website by corporate department unless it’s very important for your users to know your organizational structure.
4. Create a sitemap
Now that you know all your pages and section names you can create a sitemap.
Go to www.writemaps.com and create a simple sitemap for your website.
- The first level on the sitemap (under the home page) illustrates the global navigation.
Put the most important pages or sections of your website in the global navigation. Start with the most important topic on the left side and continue prioritizing them from left to right. The topics in the global navigation should give your site visitors a quick overview of what your site offers.
- The second level on the sitemap illustrates the subpages. Put the most important subpages of the categories on the top of the local navigation. The local navigation can be displayed inside the global navigation or on the left scan column.
- If possible don’t use more than 3 navigation levels. It’s better not to make navigation too deep because the subpages on low navigation levels have much less visibility than the pages on the first and second level.
The home page is different from all other pages you display on your site. It’s unique and it has a special mission: It has to make it instantly clear what the site is about.
You have only a few seconds to answer the most important questions:
- Whose site is this?
Use a logo and a tagline to identify the site.
- What do they offer?
Show a clear navigation to help people get a sense of what the site is all about.
- Do they have what I’m looking for?
Use a short info blurb to explain what you offer. Don’t use this space to welcome your site visitors or tell them how great your site is. Write only about what you offer and don’t use any more space than necessary.
- What can I do here?
Display the core feature (if you have one) to let people start key tasks immediately.
- Where do I start?
Make it clear where to start. Users usually want to search, to browse, to sign in or to be guided through a step-by-step process. Put the search box, the navigation, the login box or a “start here” indicator in a prominent place above the fold and make them look like starting points.
The page name is the title of your page and it has to be a clear description of the web page. The name must match the link your site visitors clicked on in the navigation. When they clicked on “About us” in the navigation they expect to end up on a page that’s named “About us” and contains content about your organisation.
- Make it bigger than the other titles on the page.
- Use your site visitors’ words.
- Start with relevant keywords in the first 11 characters.
- Try to answer people’s questions.
- Write descriptive titles: Call each thing by its proper name.
- Be as explicit as you can. Don’t use “Massage” if you can use “Hot Stone Massage”.
- Insert a call to action to get people to click through to your site (for search engine marketing).
- Use short names with no more than 60 characters.
- Summarize the page content in your page title so that the title makes sense even when the rest of the content is not available. Page titles are used for headings in search engine listings, browser bookmarks and RSS headlines.
- Use names that agree with each other regarding: part of speech, verb tense, plural or singular, capitalization, language, number of words, length of words.
- Use separations like – or / instead of words like “and” or “also”.
- Don’t use the same title twice.
- Don’t use two meanings in one page title.
- Don’t use jargon: marketing slogans, industry terms, acronyms, slang.
- Don’t use visual metaphors.
- Don’t use fancy, or clever names.
The navigation has to make it instantly clear what kind of information is waiting behind the next click. When organizing your sites keep in mind that the section names must work as a page name.
Organize your content
- by category when all your site visitors have the same basic task in mind but they have different interests (shop with different categories). Be consistent when naming categories.
- by task when your site visitors want to accomplish different tasks.
- by user when your site serves different groups of users with different goals.
- by language when your site visitors speak different languages.
- by location when it’s relevant which geographic region your site visitors are from.
- by date when you write a blog.
- Organize your content in a way that makes sense to your site visitors.
- Put the most important elements on the top of the navigatioGroup similar items together and put them next to each other in the navigation.
- Write short and clear section names.
- Don’t use fancy names.
- Don’t organize your website by corporate department unless it’s very important for your users to know this.
- Don’t combine a single-noun link name, such as apartment in Amsterdam with a verb-noun name such as rent a bike.
- Don’t use fancy names for categories.
- Don’t put unrelated categories together.
- Don’t use the word and to put two categories together. For example restaurants and bars.
- Don’t use branding and marketing terms for navigation.
Information architecture is one of the most critical points in web design. Navigation has to be clear and easy to use. Users should never have to “learn” a navigation system.