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Tips for organizing an ISD/RESA website

When you're planning out a reorganization of your ISD or RESA website, here are a few tips that may help:

  • Be sure to look at how other ISD/RESA's have organized their links.  There are only so many ways to skin a cat, so there is a good chance that there is someone not far from the approach you are considering.  Getting a chance to browse a "real" website that has the layout you're thinking about gives you the chance to look for pitfalls and things you don't like much earlier.
  • Be careful of audience-driven organization.  It is tempting to have your top level organization be Student/Parent/Teacher etc.  The problem is that lots and lots of content spans multiple audiences.  You're left with either confusion or lots of duplication.  Topical organization (Instructional Resources / Special Education)  with audience specific landing pages (ie. Here's a list of links that parents will find helpful) seems to be easier to maintain over the long term.
  • Try to keep your main navigation tabs (or categories) to 7 items or less.  People need to scan through them and hold all of them in short term memory to be able to make a quick decision about which to follow.  The average person can hold 7 things in short term memory.
  • Don't build out pages for your whole sitemap.  Many times the deepest level of your organization structure are all single concepts.  These are often best combined into fewer/longer pages with sub-headings rather than creating hundreds more tiny, single purpose pages.  In our tablet driven world scrolling is often better than clicking.
  • Consider use and organization of multiple menus.  Your Main Menu should give the visitor an understanding of the ISD/RESA and the services you provide.  Header/Focus/Quick Links/Footer menus can be audience specific or program specific for frequently accessed pages such as Staff Directory, Workshop Registration and Professional Development or Moodle, Staff Email and Office 365.  The most common audiences for these menus are internal staff and external teachers.  You will need more than one additional menu (Header/Focus/Quick Links/Footer) if you want to support multiple audiences and have more than 5 items. 
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