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Web Design, Usability

Navigation for College and University Websites

website navigation chartUsing Information Architecture to Your Advantage

In the early days of the internet, a website would feature only a landing page. As users began to turn to the internet for more information, colleges and universities added pages as needed with no thought to how they were ordered or found. This amount of pages grew, and it became obvious that an architecture was needed to structure, sequence, and group content within the website.

Information architecture (IA) should not be an afterthought in a website redesign, but rather, one of the main priorities. After all, you want your site visitors to find the information they need at a rapid speed. Otherwise, you will lose their attention and possibly their engagement and interest in your school.

So how do you create a website with intuitive navigation that helps visitors find the information they need in the shortest time possible and with the least effort?

Jesse James Garrett, founder of The Information Architecture Institute and a notable user experience designer, says there are five parts of the user experience to consider: 

  1. Strategy – Know the purpose of your website, as well as the pages it includes. This helps you rank information by importance. You also need to know who the website is for and what you want visitors to do when they visit your site.

  2. Scope – Once you have a strategy in place, make a comprehensive list of everything it will take to realize your goals. Identify roadblocks and key people who can help you meet them.

  3. Structure – Think about how you want to categorize your information: Chronologically? Alphabetically? Procedurally? Group related pages and don’t bury the most important information.

  4. Skeleton – The skeleton is the framework of your site. It includes the features you want with the navigation and subpages in place. Will you include lists, charts, and bullets? What accessibility factors should be considered? Don’t give too many options: Simple is always better.

  5. Surface – The surface is the compilation of all features to create a complete page.
The Elements of User Experience, Jesse James Garrett

The Elements of User Experience, Jesse James Garrett

 

You’ll know you have mastered information architecture when visitors to your website flow through information naturally without giving a second thought to its structure.

Ready to learn more about information architecture and its role in website redesign? Download our latest white paper, Website Audit: Cleaning Up Your Content Before a Redesign.

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