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Creating User-Focused Site Designs

For your site to succeed, arrange the content around the user’s needs.

Many novice web designers underestimate the difficulty in designing an effective site structure, especially one that will be appreciated by novice and experienced users.

We are trained in childhood to retrieve data in certain ways. For example, in libraries we refer to chronological orders, subject categories, and alphabetical listings. We also use these methods to retrieve data on the Internet.

Thus, before any coding starts, gather, sort and organize your content. The more time spent on this, the more success visitors will have on your site.

Card Sorting

Card sorting is a popular ways to organize groups of information. Get a set of blank cards and do as follows:

  • Create cards for all topics on the site. For example, on a sport site, create cards for Football, Basketball, and Hockey etc.

  • Sub-divide these categories into Leagues, Players, and Venues and so forth.

  • Label these and cross-reference cards that overlap.

  • Create the optimum navigation structure based on your cards.

  • Test it by performing mock tasks, such as how do I find information on Tiger Woods between 1999-2001.

Use these to outline the site structure, identify pages, navigation paths and content labels. Flowcharts offer an advantage in that everyone in the development process can see the site’s structure and make suggestions to alter or delete sections where necessary.

Breakdown Each Page

For each section, prepare an itemized list of contents. Include all text, images, sounds, video clips, audio clips, applets and downloadable items. List all links and their destination pages.

Separate links which appear on all pages from those appearing on specific pages only. Use Excel or Word to create this list as you can use color-codes for reference.

By breaking down each page, you also clarify each pages objectives and role.

Design for Breadth
Usability research shows that users get disorientated after the third level of depth on a site.

Therefore, help users find content within three clicks. If you can’t achieve this with the current design, start again — the rewards will be worth the efforts.

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