A free comprehensive guide for evaluating site structures

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Designing the structure for a website is never a lockstep 1-2-3 process, and different designers will approach it in different ways.

It’s always good, however, to start with some knowledge. In The research phase in Chapter 3, we described how some basic user research (such as contextual inquiry, open card sorts, and tree-testing the existing site) can give us a head start.

If we’ve done the research, we are not starting with a blank slate:

  1. We know our users.
    Our initial discussions with stakeholders defined who our target audiences are, and some basic research determined what they want and how they go about it.

  2. We know our content.
    A content audit has determined which topics we’re keeping, updating, adding, and deleting.

  3. We know what’s right and wrong with the existing structure.
    A baseline tree test has shown us which parts of the existing site tree work well (and should be reused) and which parts perform poorly (and need to be changed).

  4. We have new ideas to try out.
    An open card sort has given us ideas about how users mentally group our content and which terms they use.

We can now sketch out some new structures to test. Let’s take a look at the most common ways sites are organized, and some common tactics that can help us create our own trees.


Next: Common schemes to organize sites

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