The internal organization of a department can be very confusing! Help to make sense of it for your external audience.
Web Development office works closely with Web Services and Web Management. Although we are different, we've decided to combine our information into one site. Why? Because when someone is looking for help with the website, having the information in one place makes things much easier to understand.
As a content editor, you work every day in the environment that you are trying to present online. Often times, it's hard to step away from what you know, and just try to make sense of it all! There are many ways that content will need to be organized on your website: by audience, by section, by page, and even by paragraph!
Before we can begin to organize your content, we need to determine who your target audience actually is. It's important make it as easy as possible for your target audience to find what they need.
Your target audience may be students, staff, faculty, the general public, all of these, or another group altogether.
Ask yourself who your target audience is, then try to organize your website in a way that would be beneficial to them. Find members of your target audience and ask them for feedback about your website. You can even perform a user-test.
Listen to what they have to say, and work to improve your organization structure. However, be careful when changing things around so much. This also can make your site confusing for those who are used to it. Moving or changing names of pages and section can also result in broken links.
Do you have multiple audiences? If so, maybe you need to organize your website based on audiences rather than "sections".
For example, the Admissions website is organized by potential Undergraduate, Graduate, and Doctoral students. Every audience has different needs, different applications, different degree options, and different people to contact. This is a case where organizing a website by audience makes sense.
Often times, the internal organization of a department is confusing! Just because your department will separate forms & paperwork for different reasons (ex: Patty deals with billing, and Mary deals with payment), doesn't mean it should look that way on your website.
Determine what information should be on your website. What do people call your office in search of?
Find ways to sort your information into groups:
- Each step in a process can be broken into its own section
- Each audience can have its own section
- Each type of information can have its own section (ex: forms, programs, contact info)
Create clear, concise menu names for each section.
Look at other colleges and universities to see how they organize information for your particular department.
Are you an academic department? If so, you are very lucky! Our Content Director has put together a guide for you to follow when organizing your website. Learn more about our Guide for Academic Departments.
Feeling not-so-lucky? Contact any of our staff members for help. We're experts in this, and can help steer you in the right direction.
Separate your information into digestible chunks of information.
How much information is displayed on a page is also very important. In most cases, you will have much less content on a page of your site than you would on a single typed page in Word. The good news is that you can create as many pages as you want, and you SHOULD.
Just because you are putting your manual online, doesn't mean that it will have to follow the same page formatting that it does when it's printed out in a booklet. For example, Residence Life's Resident Manual has been separated into even more pages than their actual manual uses. Instead of having all of the policies on one single page, they've made multiple pages for: courtesy and quiet hours, visitation hours, guest requirements, and other housing policies.
Separate areas of a page with headings.
Think about where information would be separated by a heading. Should you add a heading or should that chunk of information be on its own page? Creating content specific-pages is helpful and will save your website visitors time and frustration trying to scan through so much text.
Separating information into paragraphs is very important. Here are some tips for presenting your information:
Small paragraphs work best for online viewing.
Separate your information into readable chunks.
Use headings for easy scanning.
Include links to more information within your paragraphs.
Call-out quotes from articles in the right column.
Use fieldsets to make important information and deadlines more prominent.