This is the second post in a series on structuring and designing a new website for your company. Check out the first installment here on getting started: 4 Things to Question When Building a New Website
If content is king, then quick and easy access to clear, concise content is ruler of the universe. Let’s assume that you have identified the content that will live on your site. Now it’s time to organize it. As you prepare, I recommend grouping your content into common types: images, text, audio, videos, multimedia, etc.
If your site will display multimedia, consider grouping like items together on the same page(s). Group image libraries on one page, videos in another location or page, and so on. If your site is a web gallery, consider offering different file types, and more importantly, make sure that the thumbnail images used in the gallery are as small as possible in file size (gif reducer, site optimizer).
Perhaps you want to create a carousel of images - consider using jQuery instead of Flash. jQuery will work properly with all browsers while Flash is increasingly problematic with mobile devices, especially Apple devices. There are many jQuery widgets available that are plug-n-play so you don’t need to know jQuery to use it.
Is your site document heavy? Then consider offering users the ability to download the content in a PDF or in a zipped format so that it can be read offline at a later point in time. Consider offering users a “Downloads” page where all the hyperlinks to the content live so that the user can bookmark this page and easily return, or forward the URL. Also, you can forward this link to others via email or social media. Videos and multimedia present another set of challenges. Again, try offering multiple formats or if you are unable to do so, clearly state the format you are offering and perhaps recommend that the user download the app while supplying a hyperlink to the necessary app. Now you are really enabling your users to view your content.
Maybe it’s not feasible to group like content together. In this case, review the placement of the content on each page. Perhaps you can have videos on the right side, images centered and lists of PDF text documents on the left. Continuity is important; try to avoid making users hunt for your content. If your layout is consistent, users will quickly acclimate to the common location of objects and will subsequently be able to locate what they are looking for.
Once you’ve found the best way to group or organize your content, consider the presentation of that content. Find a means to identify types of content. Use icons to distinguish PDFs from zip files or MP3s from .MOVs. Distinguish newer content from older content. Consider making the title a different color or insert a “new” icon or add captions that call attention to newer content. If content expires, remove or archive outdated files. Alert users to the new location of archived pieces or rely on redirects to accommodate users who have bookmarked the content. These suggestions sound like common sense but are often overlooked when urgency dictates design.
Like we discussed before, your content is king. Treat it that way. Don’t obscure your content by using odd fonts, colors that are too subtle, or a font size that is too small or too large. Rely on well known web fonts. Use standard web colors. Even better, pick a small palette of colors to use on your site. All users want legibility so do your best to deliver it.
Now we’ve started to touch on design issues which will be the focus of the next post so let’s review the importance of identifying the content you will be placing on your site. Remember to:
Organize your content in a manner that suits the purpose of your site.
Don’t make visitors hunt for information.
Prioritize the content, newer things first, older content last, archived or removed.