Site Structure | Web Style Guide 3

The success of the organization of your web site will be determined largely by how well your site’s information architecture matches your users’ expectations. A logical, consistently named site organization allows users to make successful predictions about where to find things.

A two-part figure: On the left, a web site hierarchy that is too shallow, with too many pages linked to the home page. On the right, a site hierarchy that is too deep, forcing the user to click through many menu pages before reaching the actual site content.

Figure 3.2 — Examples of the “Goldilocks problem” in getting the site structure “just right.” Too shallow a structure (left) forces menus to become too long. Too deep a structure (right) and users get frustrated as they dig down through many layers of menus.

Search is the only practical navigation in the “long tail”

Site structural themes

  • Sequences
    • Straight linear sequence
    • Linear sequences with supporting digressions
  • Hierarchies
    • Simple hub-and-spoke structure
    • More complex hierarchy
  • Webs

The nonlinear usage patterns typical of web users do not absolve you of the need to organize your thinking and present it within a clear, consistent structure that complements your overall design goals.

Figure 3.9 summarizes the three basic organization patterns against the linearity of the narrative and the complexity of the content.

A chart with a left vertical axis representing increasing complexity, and a horizontal axis running from simple linear training sites for average audiences to complex material for highly educated audiences. Simple page sequences are at the bottom left, average sites fall in the middle of both axes, and complex web-linked sites aimed at educated professionals are shown at the upper right, near the high end of both the complexity and non-linearity scales.

Figure 3.9 — Choose the right site structure for your audience and content.