Information architecture is the practice of organizing information into various categories to be navigated. In this context, it refers to how you’ve laid out the pages on your website to encourage a certain browsing experience for your users.
It’s a broad subject, but the basic principles of good site architecture are easy to apply once you’ve learned them. Keep these guidelines in mind as you build your site, and you’ll be good to go:
If it’s a page you want users to visit often, it should have a spot in your top navigation menu. Here are three rules of thumb about menus:
- The more important it is, the further to the left it should go (with the leftmost being “Home”)
- All navigation labels should match the title of the page they link to
- The top navigation menu should lead only to pages within your own site
When linking to offsite content, do it within the body of a page rather than through the navigation. Clicking a menu button only to have it load a new site will disorient your users.
To learn more about editing your navigation, check the Sites@Rutgers documentation on menus.
A sidebar’s role is to supplement what is there on the page beside it. They might contain:
- A navigational menu of other pages in that category
- Contact information
- Relevant links and/or widgets
If you can’t think of any relevant content to include in a sidebar, you can also choose to disable it for that specific page. Consider creating different sidebars for different sections of your site when appropriate.
To learn more about adding sidebars to your pages, see the Sites@Rutgers documentation on sidebars as well as on widgets.
As the last thing your users see on any given page, footers act as a reminder of who you are and the content on your site.
You can maintain a great footer by including the following:
- Accurate contact information
- An up-to-date navigational menu
- All your most recent events or posts (if applicable)
Avoid leaving the footer blank – it’s a valuable resource!
To learn more about editing the footer, check the Sites@Rutgers documentation on footers.
Information architecture may be an intimidating title, but all it really comes down to is making it a habit to keep your web content well organized. Once you’ve adopted that mindset, you’ll be surprised how easily the rest comes to you.