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General IA tips

 

General tips

Make the most important content prominent and easily found

Your most-requested content (according to your target audience's goals) should be one click from the home page (though that doesn't necessarily mean it has to be in the global navigation menu), or put at least part of that information in the "Info for" box on the home page. For example, you could show a very brief "Why choose our department" paragraph with a link to the entire "Why..." page at the bottom of that paragraph.

Grouping and terminology

For non-academic unit sites, your custom categories should be named and arranged so that it's obvious and intuitive where to click to find any piece of information.

Label your pages, categories, and links using terms that your target audience will be familiar with. Avoid using technical jargon, internal terms, or terms unique to KU. Doing a card sort test can be very helpful, then later following up with a quick usability study of 5-7 users asking things like, "Find information on _______" then silently watch the user and track how many get it right the first time. Often, just observing them try to use your site will teach you volumes!

Shallow vs. deep sites

Ideally, your main menu and each sub-menu (if any) should have 5-8 items because that's a manageable number for people to scan. There's a trade-off: long menus with many items overwhelms users, but the benefit is the site can then be shallower (fewer clicks to get anywhere) thus the users are less likely to feel lost. Conversely, shorter menus help the site seem simple and easy but require deeper navigation (more categories/levels) and more clicks to get anywhere which can make users feel lost. Try to find the happy medium, and sometimes you can use little tricks to make a site appear shallower by reducing the number of pages needed, such as using in-page tabs to separate similar content.

Page length

Avoid creating pages that are very long (more than 3 or 4 'scroll-pages' long) or very short (1 or 2 paragraphs, which could probably be incorporated into another page). It's fine to have pages that are 2 or 3 scroll-pages long because it's a myth that users won't scroll (especially if they're interested in the content), but make sure you put the most important content 'above the fold' (the space users see without scrolling) to maximize the chance that users will see it.

Hiding content

Similar to the 'above the fold' concept, avoid hiding important or frequently accessed content in popups or dropdowns — if that content is important to your user, make it as easy as possible for them to see.


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