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August 31, 2015 | 16th Elul 5775

Tips for planning a site structure

When planning a structure for you website, your first consideration should be your audience. Always ask, "who will be visiting this site?" and "what kind of information will they be looking for?". The best website structures are those that allow visitors to find what they are looking for without having to give it a second thought, and without having to click a mouse more than one or two times.

Temple websites are usually serving two main audiences: congregational members and prospective members. A great exercise is to put yourself in the shoes of both of these types of visitors and write up a list for each of all of the types of information that they might be looking for, then put those items in order of importance (to both you and to them). This will help you to prioritize the information that should appear in your site's structure.

When we refer to the structure of the site, we are also talking about the main menu, since the menu serves as a map of the top and sublevel pages of your site. Here is a list of the things to keep in mind when planning your site structure and main menu:

  1. Keep the number of top level pages and menu items to a minimum. Study after study proves that people do not read on the Internet. They scan quickly to find what they're searching for. Putting too many items in your site's menus and at the top level of your site's structure will actually undo the purpose of a menu, by forcing your visitors to read and making it harder for them to quickly find anything.

  2. Don't use the main menu to highlight seasonal events or items that can be grouped under larger headings. The menu's purpose is not to call attention to individual items, it is to reflect the organization of the material on your site and help your visitors find that material easily. Instead, make sure that the menu is organized in an intuitive way. Putting teasers on the valuable real estate on your home page is a better way to bring attention to specific items, especially those that are temporal.

  3. Keep the menu item names short and easy to understand at a glance. Though the temptation is to use more words to explain, you don't need to use the menu to do this.... once your visitors click they are brought to a page where the full name of program, for example, can be noted. So instead of "The Esther and Isaac Stein Education Center", you might be better off with "Religious School" as the menu label.

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