Information design is probably the least ‘cool’ part of web design, but it is the quintessence of the art. Users visit websites to obtain certain information, and whether or not they’ll benefit from your website is largely pegged on how you present said information to your consumers.
Image credit: memes.com
1. Go systematically
Small as well as large websites stand to gain by a step-by-step and methodical approach to site content organization. Below we provide a simple scheme to help you with information organization:
- Gain proper understanding of the kind of content to be published in the site, its processes and purpose for which it is to be published. This includes the images, videos, copy and any other assets. The processed, including any workflow or task users, should work through to navigate the site. Purpose includes client and user goals.
- Prioritize information by importance and identify user navigation paths. There are many different ways information can be sent out and you need to choose schemes that make the most common user tasks the most direct to get to. Client goals may also help you in the process of review to determine which content should go where.
- After understanding how different elements relate, site organization is the last step. This includes categorizing pages, using diagrammatic representations in lieu of text where possible, combining multiple pages or splitting up extra-long sections into multiple pages etc. This is also the time to create and organize the site map following possible user navigation paths.
2. Be creative
There are many different ways to reorganize and rearrange content even in mildly complex sites. You can rearrange menus, move pages into groups and sets that make more logical sense and generally just use an open mind to achieve client and user goals.
For instance, you can create a blog to house much of the content that would increase the complexity of a website menu e.g. newsletters, competitions, subsite links etc. You may find that the site has no use for some information, or doesn’t need to have it in the main site, and you’ll have to adjust accordingly.
Expect to change many elements many times as you go and feel free to experiment with different layouts to see which makes the most sense.
3. Balance the structure
Figuring out how deep and wide to go with the navigation is a basic part of organizing large content sets. Depth refers to the number of layers of categories and sub-categories there will be. Width expresses how many there are in each level.
Finding a position of balance is most important. For instance, too many items on one level might mislead a user, while having too many levels to click through to get to information might make the user impatient and leave. As a rule, try to maintain the number of options for each level 4-8.
Another thing to watch out for is to ensure that there isn’t a side that’s lighter than the other. This problem is likely to arise especially where a ‘Contact’ section is placed on the top level: it won’t have the same categories and sub-categories as the rest. But omitting it from the top level could hamper users from finding much needed information to complete their tasks.
A simple solution could be to introduce quick links to enable users navigate right from a page rather from the menus in order to improve the balance.