Organizing Content for Web Readers

Organizing the Site as a Whole

The most common way to organize a website as a whole is to have your site's overall message on the homepage, and then tuck details into subsections. This structure has several names, including "top-down," "general-to-specific," "inverted pyramid" and "hierarchical."

It's the most common structure because it is flexible enough to work for most content, and can be used at all levels, from the whole site, to subsections, to individual pages. Notice, too, that a top-down structure is a good way to serve impatient Web readers. They can read the overall message at the top, and quickly decide whether to read the details or go to another page. 

Organizing Detailed Content

For your detailed content, from subsections down to individual pages, you may want to think about other typical organizational strategies, including:

  • by task
  • by topic
  • by audience (if your site has more than one audience)
  • sequential or chronological (for instructions, procedures, and processes)
  • order of importance (usually most to least important).

Tips for Organizing

  • The strategies listed here are by no means the only ones to use. There may be times when your audience and content suggest something else, perhaps one that is unique to your content. Just make sure that you organize your content in a way that your users can understand and that helps them do what they want to do.
  • It's common to use more than one organizational strategy on your site, or even combine them. For example, you might organize a section first by task, and then organize the details of each task sequentially.

For More Ideas on Organizing Your Content

"The Web Style Guide" by Patrick Lynch and Linda Horton is one of the most widely used resources on how to develop websites.  Two especially helpful sections on organizing content are "Site Structure" and "Structuring Your Prose."

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