Organizing Web sites and intranets

A poorly organized Web site may have few repeat customers. Don't let it happen to you.

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Alphabetical

An alphabetical organization scheme is the primary organization scheme for encyclopedias and dictionaries. Almost all nonfiction books, including this one, provide an alphabetical index. Phone books, department-store directories, bookstores, and libraries all make use of our 26-letter alphabet for organizing their contents. Alphabetical organization often serves as an umbrella for other organization schemes. We see information organized alphabetically by last name, by product or service, by department, and by format. Figure 5-2 provides an example of a departmental directory organized alphabetically by last name.

A directory of people at Microsoft Research

Figure5-2.A directory of people at Microsoft Research

Chronological

Certain types of information lend themselves to chronological organization. For example, an archive of press releases might be organized by the date of release. Press release archives are obvious candidates for chronological organization schemes (see Figure 5-3). The date of announcement provides important context for the release. However, keep in mind that users may also want to browse the releases by title, product category, or geography, or to search by keyword. A complementary combination of organization schemes is often necessary. History books, magazine archives, diaries, and television guides tend to be organized chronologically. As long as there is agreement on when a particular event occurred, chronological schemes are easy to design and use.

Press releases in reverse chronological order

Figure5-3.Press releases in reverse chronological order

Geographical

Place is often an important characteristic of information. We travel from one place to another. We care about the news and weather that affects us in our location. Political, social, and economic issues are frequently location-dependent. And, in a world where mobile devices such as Blackberries and Treos are becoming location-aware, while companies like Google and Yahoo! are investing heavily in local search and directory services, the map as interface is enjoying a resurgence of interest.

With the exception of border disputes, geographical organization schemes are fairly straightforward to design and use. Figure 5-4 shows an example of a geographical organization scheme. Users can select a location from the map using their mouse.

A geographical organization scheme

Figure5-4.A geographical organization scheme

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