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Knowledgebase: HTML
Organization (Deciding how to organize your web site)
Posted on 05 December 2003 10:30 AM

Deciding how you are going to organize your site early on will make the development process go much smoother and easier for you! There are three structures to choose from when organizing your information:

  • Hierarchical
  • Linear
  • Webbed

You can use each type individually or combine them as needed.

Hierarchical Organization

Using hierarchical organization is much like the technique used when creating an organizational chart for a company. The hierarchy starts with top officials, then shows the managers who work for them, the employees who work for those managers, and so on. With a web site it is done in the same way. Organizing information in a hierarchical structure, you present a first group of equally important topics, followed by another group of equally important topics, and so on.

If you choose hierarchical organization, remember to keep it simple. Visitors to your site will dig through two or three levels of information, but after that they are likely to give up.

Linear Organization

A web site that uses linear organization allows a visitor to move forward and backward within a particular set of pages, but not to jump to other pages. If you have surfed the web a good amount you've probably come across a page that is set up using linear organization, commonly noticed by the "next, back, and home" buttons. Because this can occasionally frustrate a visitor who wants to get to other pages, it is advised to use linear organization only when it's necessary. For example, often web sites use linear organization to walk a visitor through filling out an order form, with step 1, step 2, step 3, etc. When using linear organization try to follow these two guidelines:

  • Remember that the visitor cannot roam to other pages, therefore be sure the linear process is essential to the task at hand.
  • Keep the linear sequence as short as possible so that visitors focus on the process and complete it successfully.

Webbed Organization

Webbed organization is probably the most misused and abused organizational option seen on the web. Using webbed organization is an easy way to have your visitors leave your site feeling lost or disoriented when they don't know where they are or where they have been. Webbed organization allows you to link from point C to point Z and back to Point F in section 4 which links to Section 12 and then links to another site which was nice enough to provide a link back to your site to Section 6 which offers no link back to Point C where the visitor originally began! Webbed organization can be quite effective and useful when done right, especially in offering extensive cross-references. When using webbed organization, try to follow these two guidelines:

  • Provide information on each page that allows visitors to orient themselves. For example, include a running footer or logo on each page.
  • Provide a link to your home page on all pages. If you do so, visitors can easily return to a familiar page.

After you have adequately planned your HTML documents, deciding which information to include and how to organize it, you are ready to start creating web pages with HTML tags -- the instructions that surround material such as text, images, and links and tell the viewer's web browser how to display them. If you want an image to show up on the left side of the page, a certain word to appear bold, or another word to link to an outside resource, HTML tags are how you do it.