Have you ever visited a website for specific reason but as soon as you got onto the website you were disappointed that the site held none of the information you were looking for? Or you the site promised you exactly the kind of information you were looking for but there was no clear path to find it? In these scenarios, how long did you stay on the website? Did you even feel like exploring the website to look for the information you wanted?
One of the most important decisions a website designer needs to make is how to organize or layout information on a website.
We all know that content is king. But what is the point of good content if the visitors on your website are not going to be able to access that content easily and quickly.
Your visitors need to be able to quickly scan your site and find the content or information they are looking for. If you are a company offering information, services, or products people visit your website because they are looking for information and for designers the main objective should be to help the visitors find it.
This is not an easy task considering that there are many different people visiting your site, and a website can varying types of information. So here I am listing a few tips on how you can improve your websites information dissemination at a glance, in a quick and effective way:
1. Set the goals first
Different clients are going to have different goals, based on the service they are providing. For example, if a website is selling a product to talk about the product’s USP, if it is a service the client’s goals might be to highlight what they offer other businesses, etc. There must also be a call to action, the real goal for all clients is to use the website for conversion, so if it is a product website think about how you might lead the website visitor to quickly gain information about the product and lead them to buy the product.
Some websites may also just be providing information and some websites might be doing a combination of these. So start by first listing down the client’s goal and what the call to action should be. If your site aims to sell a product, then the most important information on that site will be that which describes the benefits of the product, answers potential customer questions, and tells visitors how to buy. If the site’s primary purpose is to provide information, then you might want to make sure that either the information or navigation to find that information is placed in a prominent position on the home. So once you have all the content in front you start by first listing down the client’s objectives and what they are trying to achieve from their website.
2. Highlight necessary content
Once you know what the site’s and the client’s goals are, start by highlighting all the necessary content or text that communicates the goals. For example, if you have a site that aims to sell a product, you want to select and highlight product benefits, features, testimony, and information about the company, a FAQ page, and information on how the visitors can purchase the product.
3. Define an information structure
Now that you know what the goals of the website are and you have highlights of text that communicate the goals now it is time for you to order the information. At this point, you want to take the text and keep arranging it either on the screen or onboard until the progression of the information flow. Remember to give the most important information first (we will talk about this a bit more in detail below). Each web page needs to give unique information and move the readers to the next step or to a call to action like mentioned before. This can be done by providing links, taking text, and deciding which is important to make a header, paragraph, or titles.
4. Start with critical content
Once you have a clear structure for your content, you need to go into more detail and decide which text is going to be displayed where on the site. Important is that you start with the most critical content, i.e.: the most important or central message to the product or service the site is selling and place it right on the landing page. Then, you can think about less central content and decide where and how you want to arrange it on your site.
5. Group related content
Another way to better organize the content is to group relevant elements. Note that relevant is your subjective thought but what go back to the goals and ask yourself if it is communicating that goal effectively. Relevant content that is grouped logically and practically will make the site visitor’s search for related content minimal and therefore navigating your website becomes more intuitive and more efficient for your visitors.
6. Show only what is relevant
At the end of this process, you might still have text from the overall content that does not fit anywhere or might be leftover. Do not try to cram the leftover text in spaces because you feel you need to make use of it. Keep it simple, meaning only include content that is relevant, does not repeat the same thing and over iterate. But, make sure you show everything that is relevant.
Ultimately, selecting, organizing, categorizing and hierarchical placing the content all comes down to defining the objectives of the website and the client goals. So make you sure you spend time in understanding this.
Again, you can pretend to be a visitor to your own website and guess what kind of information would be relevant. Or you can ask real users to perform different tasks and go through different use cases to tell you exactly what content they expect to find. You can then think of ways to display additional information. For example, you can place high priority content directly on the site, or link to less urgent content on your different pages. Just make sure it’s available.
If your site is small and only has a few pages, you can easily display them all in your main navigation. As the number of pages grows it quickly becomes unwieldy to try and include to every page in a navigation bar or single menu. Organizing your pages into a hierarchy becomes important.
A hierarchical organization is one of the simplest structures for visualizing and understanding complexity. Placing your content into some kind of hierarchy is an easy way to let people know what the entirety of your content is about.
Hierarchy is created through superordinate/subordinate or parent/child relationships. Visually we perceive these relationships based on left/right or top/down organization, but we can also influence this hierarchy visually through proximity, size, and connecting lines among other things.
A large part of the job of a designer is to organize information.
That organization might be the information architecture across a website or it might be where to place design elements on a page. How information is organized reveals a lot about your page and site and will greatly influence how people react to your design and how they interact with your entire site.
How information is organized on a single page and across your site greatly affects how people respond to your design and interact with it. When someone first visits your site they have very little knowledge about it. You need to let them know what your site is about quickly and effectively.
How should you organize your site’s information? How many ways can you organize it? Are some organizational systems better than others?
About the author
Harshada is a trained product designer but has made her way from design to design research. Although she is a research she keeps herself updated on interaction and digital product design. You can always trust her to give feedback and she is always open to a good brainstorming jam.