When designing your site, the first thing to do is decide on the overall layout of the website. You probably have an idea of what you want to say; now, where are you going to say it?

1. Look at what other people are doing

If you have time, browse the Web to see what other sites are doing. If you don't have time, try to make some... this is very important! Try to identify what you like about the layouts you see and what you don't like. Go to sites that are similar in size to what you want, and ask yourself if they are easily navigable and set up in a manner that makes sense.

2. Break down your content into sections

Plan out how your site will fit together. It's usually a good idea to come up with between four and eight distinct sections. These groups should be logical based on your target audience... who's going to be looking at your site?

Why not have lots of sections?
These are the main categories that will be accessible from each page (see Navigation). It's quite a pain to look through forty buttons... plus, this many links can really clutter up a page!

Why not have just one or two sections?
This is fine, if you don't have much to say. But whoever you are, and whatever you do, you'll probably want to have "Who We Are" and "What We Do" sections! It's often a good idea to add an area for comments and frequently-asked-questions.

It's a good idea to jot down your plans before you actually begin work. Show it to your employees, co-workers, ISP... make sure you're not missing anything! This is a sample flowchart for a small 8-page site:

3. Keep it simple!

Using a flowchart like the one above, you can easily develop a hierarchical system of pages. Don't try to cram too much information on one page! If you need to, treat the main page of each section as another "home page" with branches to other pages in that section. Ideally, you don't want any page to be more than four or five clicks away from the home page.

[Organization] [Navigation] [Style] [Design]
[Back to Building Effective Web Pages]