Step 1: Choose a Framework for Your Website
A well-organized, easy-to-navigate structure is the foundation for a successful website. Harvard Web Publishing provides several frameworks to help you more easily organize your website content.
When you initially set up our site, you will be presented with several options for the type of site you would like to create. Your site will then be pre-populated with a primary menu and sections depending upon the type of site you select. View guides to each of the site structures, and tips for how to best use them:
These website frameworks have been designed to provide the following benefits:
- Clear labels to help visitors find what they need.
- Consistent labels across Harvard websites to create a more cohesive visitor experience.
- Flexible categories to accommodate site growth over time. For example, by using a label such as “events” rather than “seminars,” you will always have a place for all future events – not only seminars.
Before moving your content into a new site, we encourage you to take stock of what content exists on your current site and develop a plan for migrating it. Performing a content inventory and analysis is an excellent way to determine what content you have on your site, what needs to be updated, what can be removed, and what new content you need to create.
Although any site can benefit from this exercise, this process is especially important for large and complex websites, and for sites that have existed for several years. These sites will commonly have pages that are out-of-date or no longer needed.
To help you through this process, HWP provides a step-by-step guide to creating a content inventory and a sample spreadsheet.
You can also read more about the purpose and components of a content inventory at usability.gov.
While organizing your site's content, keep in mind your end user. When you label a section, is it a term your audience will easily understand? How many categories and sub-categories will your site have – and will this be easy or difficult for people to navigate? To help guide your decisions and ensure that visitors to your site find it convenient rather than confusing, please review they key principles for general web usability on the Harvard Guidelines site.
Need Help Visualizing Your Site’s Organization?
A card sort can be a helpful tactic for thinking about your site organization, especially for larger sites, or sites where categorizing content may be complex.
You can easily conduct a card sort by putting your website page names onto index cards or sticky notes, and sorting the content into the categories that seem most logical. Keep the perspective of your users in mind, rather than only organizing content according to your department’s internal structure.
Find helpful guides to running a card sort at Usability.gov and Boxes and Arrows.