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Web Site Organization

A well organized web site will increase it's usability resulting in your visitors staying on your site longer and coming back more frequently. First I'll go over site structure and then discuss a few other items that can help a site appear more organized.

Overview of Site Structure

The main page of your site, also referred to as the home or index page, is the first page visitors will see when going to your domain. On this page there should be navigation linking to each of the major subpages of your site. These navigation links can be either text links or image buttons. For example, imagine a fictional company who wants a web site as a sort of online brochure. They have 3 products to sell, they don't want to sell them online, but would like detailed information about each of them to be available on their site. They also want an About Us, a Contact Us, and a Photos page. A products page could be set up that gives an introduction about their products, and then links to 3 separate pages each of which describes one of the products in detail. The main page could be referred to as level one, the Our Products, About Us, Contact Us, and the Photos page as level 2, and each of the individual product pages as level three. See diagram below.

There would then be five main navigational links for this site:

1) Main page
2) About Us
3) Our Products
4) Photos
5) Contact Us

These five links should appear on each of the eight pages of the site. The header and title on the top of each page should either be the same as or similiar to the text on each of the navigation links. In this way whichever page of the site a visitor finds themselves on, either through moving around the site on their own, or by entering the site on any of it's eight pages through a search engine link, they should be able to easily figure out exactly where on the site they are.

To maintain a consistent look and feel throughout the site, the same overall design should be used on each page. For example, if each of the five main navigation links were made from buttons shaped like hats, and they were lined up along a left column, they should be that way on each page of the site. It is however, a good idea to include plain text links to each of the main pages on the bottom of each page of the site. This is especially important if the other links are made from graphics. There are people who use browsers with either no graphics capability, or they have them turned off. They will need a way to navigate through your site also.

It has also been stated that it should not take more than three clicks to get from one page to any other page on the same web site, and if it does, the site just isn't organized well. For more information about site structure and usability I suggest one of Jacob Nielson's books. He is considered the leading expert on these issues.

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