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My Website is Better Than Yours

My Website is Better Than Yours

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Published by Eliot Ness
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Published by: Eliot Ness on May 16, 2009
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If you have a one-page Website, then there’s no navigational structure to worry
about. As soon as you go beyond a few pages, however, it’s a good idea to give the
matter some thought. I am using the term to mean two related things:
•The way information is divided between the pages

•The way the links between pages are organized

Let’s look at these in turn.

Planning Your Pages

Completely separate from the question of page appearance and design is decid-
ing what material goes on a page. The general rule is, of course, that related materi-
al should be kept together. On a personal Website, for example, one page might be
devoted to baby pictures, another page to family history, and so on. This is only log-
ical, and site visitors expect this kind of organization.
But what if a topic includes only a little bit of information, enough to fill, let’s
say, one third of a typical browser window? That wouldn’t look good, so it’s okay to
combine skimpy topics on the same page as long as they are clearly identified.
You can also face the opposite problem—a topic with too much information to
fit on one page. Visitors can always scroll down in the browser window to view it,
but you may prefer to have everything visible at once. In that case, you can divide

203

CHAPTER 14

the material over two or more pages and use Next and Previous links to let people
move between them. If you do want to have the entire page visible, you have to take
screen size into consideration, as discussed later in this chapter.

Planning Your Links

You’ve probably had the experience of get-
ting bogged down in a Website and not being
able to find what you want or even get back to
where you started. Few things are more frus-
trating, and you certainly do not want this
happening to your visitors! It’s only a problem
on more complex sites—that is, sites with a
lot of pages—but even with simpler sites you
should give some thought to your navigation-
al structure.

Many simpler sites use a traditional hub-
and-spoke design. The hub is the home page,
of course, and each spoke is a link to a topic
page. Then, each topic page includes a link
back to the home page. This is diagrammed in
Figure 14.1.

To provide your users with more flexibility,
you may want each page on the site to contain
a link to every other page. Figure 14.2 shows
a diagram of this kind of link structure. When
you use this approach, it is a good idea to dis-
play the links similarly in each page—in
other words, with the same formatting and in
the same location, so users will be able to find
them easily.

Problems are rare with either of the link
structures presented so far. This is because no
page is more than one or two jumps away
from any other. Problems are much more like-
ly to arise when your site’s link structure gets
deeper than two levels with a large number of
pages. Look, for instance, at the link structure
in Figure 14.3. Here we have two “branches”
of related pages, each starting at the home

204

CHAPTER 14: NAVIGATIONAL STRUCTURE

FFiigguurree 1144..11.. A simple hub-and-spoke link structure.

FFiigguurree 1144..22.. A more complex link structure in which each page
links to every other page.

page. I think you can see why a user who has found them-
selves on Page 3 might have trouble finding Page C! And,
just think how these problems can be multiplied on a site
with dozens of pages and five or six levels of links! There’s
no way you could link every page to every other page. It’s
all too easy for a visitor to get lost on such a site, and that’s
a guarantee for frustration!
What’s to be done for large, complex Websites? There’s
no easy answer, but here are some tips:

•Include a link to the home page on every page.

•Be consistent in the way you format, display, and use
links in all parts of the site.

•Use “breadcrumbs,” or link trails, that show the visitor
where they are in the site.

•Include a site map, covered next.

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