Arranging information in a website

When people organising a Website, they often think of pages.

When people organising a Website, they often think of pages. After all, a site is a collection of pages. But one shouldn't confuse pages with information, or a site with a message.

Websites communicate to their audiences not only with words and pictures, but how the information is arranged. A well-built site that people find easy to use will reflect well on your business.

Every Website has a home page—a common starting point or introduction. Every Website should have a contact or "goal" page. The other pages should persuade people to use the goal page: to request more information, signup for your service or order your product.

Many sites fall into a similar pattern whether it suits them or not. The five stand-bys are:

  • Home
  • About us
  • Services
  • Frequently asked questions
  • Contact

That arrangement is often enough for any site, and they work no matter your site's goals. Sometimes there's no reason to break a winning formula. But not always. What pages do you need?

Here are five quick tips for planning your site:

  1. Plan your message, not your pages. Whether by radio, business card or billboard, you have a message for your customers or clients. Think about your business: what sets you apart from the competition? What have been your successes? Write a list of people should know about your business, or what impression you want to give. Then organise that information—and use that to plan your pages.
  2. Take cues from your customers. What questions do they ask about your business, product or service? If people ask a general question, like what you're all about, then you need broad information about your businesses goals and services. But if your customers are more informed, it's smart to build pages with specifics about what you sell.
  3. Cut it out. When you review your site (you do look at your site, right?) look for pages that fail to contribute to your message. Sure, if you review your site once a month, chances are slim you'll find a needless page every time. Still, ask yourself: "If I remove this page, will the overall site suffer? Will people email or phone to ask questions that this page answers?" Repeat for every page. Yes, even the home and contact pages.
  4. Prune link-only pages. Linking to other peoples' sites is fine. But if you find a page in your site whose only contribution is to link to other pages in your own site, then you need to remove it. Exceptions: the home page, a site map, or a long list of products or services. By "long" I mean at least ten.
  5. Steal ideas. Look at your competition: What are they telling their clients that you aren't telling yours? Remember: That doesn't mean they're doing a good job of explaining themselves. If your competition's site makes no sense, then that's an example of what not to do.

Your Website represents your company like any flesh and blood salesperson. If it's well-groomed and well-arranged, visitors will see your business the same way. What happens behind the scenes... well, how your business runs is up to you.