The Structure of Your Business Website
The most important criterion for a successful business website is whether it accomplishes its goals. Your site doesn’t have to be beautiful or cutting edge as long as it ultimately has a positive effect on your bottom line. The second most important criterion is how well the site works from the user’s perspective.
The easier you make it for users to achieve what they want — whether that’s buying a product, obtaining information, or connecting with others — the more likely your site is to succeed.
A preliminary site index helps you gather your ideas in one place. Outlining — the way you learned in junior high — is one easy way to organize and track site content.
As you can see on the site index for the fictional SillySox.com in the following illustration, the top-level navigation, which appears on your main menu, shows up as Roman numerals in the outline. Secondary pages under that topic appear as capital letters, and third-level pages appear as Arabic numerals.
Organize your site index strategically, with the most important information for each level at the top of its section. Then review the site index against your site objectives. Keep rearranging the index until it reflects the marketing goals you want to accomplish.
Be sure to include any special functions the user might need to access, such as a Contact Us page, newsletter signup, or blog. The site index might change after discussion with your developer and during the development process.
The order in which navigation items appear on the screen is crucial. The viewer’s eye goes first to the upper-right corner. Place there the most important action you want your audience to take. The top-left corner of the navigation is the second most important spot. The less-important activities go in the middle of the list of activities on the left sidebar or in the middle of horizontal navigation across the top.
Because acquiring e-mail addresses is considered the most important marketing activity for SillySox.com, that function appears in the upper-right area of the navigation, as shown in the following illustration.
Your site index becomes an important planning tool for scheduling and budgeting. When you ask developers for a price quote, the index will have a direct impact on the bids you receive. You can later convert the site index into tables to track which pages need to be written, which pages need photographs, and which pages are complete.
You can find out more about organizing your website in Web Design For Dummies, 2nd Edition, by Lisa Lopuck (John Wiley & Sons, Inc.).
You can’t count on a linear experience. websites aren’t like most books, read from front to back. Visitors might not arrive on your home page, and they might skip all around your site. Not every visitor wants the same thing, so you must juggle appeals to multiple subsegments of your target audience.