by Durant Imboden, Europe for Visitors
How you organize your site is a personal choice. Here's the approach that my wife and I use at Europeforvisitors.com and its subsidiary sites:
A "topic and subtopic" site architecture
On our main Europe for Visitors site, the top three navigation links in the left margin (after the inevitable "Home" link) are "Countries," "City Guides," and "All Topics."
- Click on "All Topics," and you'll be taken to a page of menus for topics like "General European Travel Articles," "Transportation and Cruising," and "Countries (Destination Articles)."
- Click on a subtopic within a topic menu (such as"Currency, ATMs, and Credit Cards") and you'll get a submenu with links to individual articles.
On our subsidiary sites, which are about narrower topics like Venice, Paris, or European cruises, our left-column navigation menus can be more specific. For example:
- Venice for Visitors has left-column links for "Arriving in Venice," "Transportation," "Sightseeing," "Venice Cruises," and "Venice Videos."
- Europe for Cruisers has navigation links for "Cruise Reviews and Articles," "European Cruise Guide," "Barge Cruises," "Canal Boats," and other cruising subtopics.
In each case, we've optimized the navigation menus to meet two objectives:
- Helping readers to find useful information on our site, and...
- Promoting topics ("Transportation") and types of content ("Cruise Reviews") that we think will resonate with users.
As you can see from the above examples, your site architecture and navigation scheme will be influenced heavily by the breadth or narrowness of your topic and how many articles or pages you expect to have.
Also, it's important to remember that "site architecture" and "navigation menus" are two different things:
- On our Venice for Visitors site, for example, most of our articles (several hundred pages) are in a single directory or folder titled "Articles."
- However, most of the links in our Venice for Visitors navigation menu point to index pages (or, in some cases, specific articles) within that Articles folder, such as "Arriving in Venice," "Transportation," "Where to stay," and "Top 11 Free Sights."
- When organizing your site, plan for the future. Five years from now, when you have thousands of pages, you may wish you'd organized your South America site's directory structure by country, or that you'd created separate folders on your resorts site for different regions or types of resort.
(It's possible to reorganize your site later on, but it's a nuisance, and it requires taking steps to avoid broken links, "404 Page Not Found" errors, and lost rankings in search engines.)
Next article: "Editorial content, or 'What should I write?'"