Web Site Planning: Suggestions and Guidelines

Step 4: Create a Site Structure

This step takes your labeled content groups and builds a model structure for your site. To help stimulate discussion consider how the following models may or may not work for your site.

  • An exact organization model sorts content into well defined and often mutually exclusive sections. Common applications of this model include:
    • An alphabetical sort used for a staff directory on a contact page, or
    • A chronological sort used to present a collection of news releases.
  • Exact organization schemes are:
    • Easy to design and maintain.
    • Require users to know exactly what they're looking for.
  • An ambiguous organization model sorts information into categories that rely on language and/or visual symbols to convey the category content. Common applications of ambiguous organization schemes include:
    • A topical sort such as "Additional Resources", or "Legal Issues."
    • An audience-specific sort such as a "For Children" or "For Prospective Students."
  • Ambiguous organization schemes are:
    • More effective than exact organization models because most users don't know precisely what they are looking for.
    • Difficult to conceptualize and design.
  • A hybrid model, applies the exact scheme for some content and an ambiguous scheme for the remainder. A common hybrid model is a hierarchical scheme where content is organized as a collection of pages beneath a Home Page. Not surprisingly, we recommend this model because:
    • It is an easy metaphor to understand, and
    • It works well with both simple and complex collections of information.

Acknowledgement: Much of the above has been adapted from the book, "Information Architecture for the World Wide Web" by Louis Rosenfeld and Peter Morville. O'Reilly & Associates, 1998, pp. 26-36.

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