As a creative, it’s easy to get hung up on the aesthetics of a website and sacrifice form over function without even realizing it.
I’m in the middle of making updates to the Elle & Company site and I’ll admit - it’s easy to get caught up on visuals like icons and photos.
But if you truly want visitors to take action on your website (by signing up for your mailing list, purchasing a product, or booking your services), you have to focus on more than just aesthetics.
You have to focus on how you organize your content in a way that’s easy and intuitive for your visitors.
That’s easier said than done though, isn’t it?
Especially if you’ve had no experience setting up a website before.
If you’re struggling to organize the content on your website, I have a step-by-step method to help you sort it out and create a better user experience.
Why worry about how your website content is organized?
The hierarchy and arrangement of pages on your website can have a large impact on your user experience.
By organizing your content, you allow visitors to understand and navigate your site, which helps them find what they’re looking for and increases the likelihood that they’ll return in the future.
Strategic website organization also allows search engines to understand what your most important content is and prioritize it accordingly, which will increase your SEO and Google rankings.
So how do you strategically organize your content? Here’s the method I’ve used for both client sites and the Elle & Company website.
1 | First, list the pages of your website
Before you map out your main navigation and gather your content, you need to consider which pages will need to be included on your website.
Some common pages include:
Homepage - Your homepage is your website’s front door. It should give visitors a clear understanding of what you do within their first few seconds on your site as well as show them where to go.
Hubspot has a great article on the 12 critical elements to include on your homepage here.
About - Your about page gives visitors an-depth look at who you are and what your business does. More importantly, your about page allows your audience to relate to you and your story.
Services - If you offer a service, this is a pretty important page. Not only will it give potential clients an overview of what you offer, but if you do it right, your service page can encourage people to contact and book you.
If you have multiple services, you might create a landing page with a brief summary of each service that links to individual pages for each offering (similar to my product page here).
Shop - This page is extremely important for those of you who offer tangible or online products, not only because it showcases them, but because the way it’s organized and laid out can have a large impact on a buyer’s first impression.
Portfolio - For those of you who offer services or custom products, a portfolio page allows you to highlight your past work and give potential clients an idea of your capabilities.
Process - Sharing your process is a great way to educate potential clients, demonstrate authority, and build trust. Consider outlining your process from start to finish and providing a few details about each step.
Blog - A blog is a great way to share helpful content with your audience, build credibility with potential clients and customers, and drive traffic back to your website.
Not convinced you need a blog? Read this post before you rule it out.
Archives - Make it easy for visitors to find old blog posts by creating an archive page. You can organize your posts by date, category, or both. Also be sure to include a search bar for those who are looking for a specific article.
Subscribe - While you’ll probably place opt-ins on your homepage and blog sidebar, a subscribe page comes in handy when you want to link to your mailing list on social media, guest posts, etc.
FAQ - Are you constantly answering the same questions over and over in emails or even on social media? Troubleshoot and cut back on the inquiries by adding an FAQ page to your website. You might also link to blog posts that answer a question in more detail.
Contact - Do you want potential clients and customers to get in touch with you? Don’t forget a contact page with a form for people to send you a message.
Terms & Conditions - This page lists a set of rules and guidelines that your visitors must agree to in order to use your website. It acts as a legally binding contract between your business and those who visit your site, and it’s important to include when you’re organizing and mapping out the content you need on your site.
Depending on the scope of your business and the functionality of your website, you might include less or more than the number of pages above.
But it’s best to think through the pages you need on your website ahead of time in order to organize them in a way that makes sense for your visitors.
2 | Assign each page a clear call-to-action
Clicking around on your website should feel natural.
There shouldn’t be any “dead ends;” visitors shouldn’t get to the bottom of a page on your website and have to make a conscious decision of where to go next.
Instead, you should be guiding them through your content by adding a clear call-to-action on each page.
So what action do you want someone to take after they visit each page of your site?
Go back through your list from step 1 and assign each page a clear call-to-action.
If someone is on your portfolio page, a natural next step would be to take a look at your services. So include a clear call-to-action to your service page.
If someone is on your service page, a natural next step would be to contact you to book your services. So include a clear call-to-action to your contact page.
Squarespace makes it easy to add a call-to-action button on any page and customize it.
These calls-to-action create a goal for each page, which will also help you as you outline the pages in Step 3.
3 | Use visual hierarchy to point visitors to the most helpful information
You may not realize it, but each time you look at a website your brain ranks the elements of the page in order of importance based on visual cues.
This is called hierarchy, and designers use this principle to guide your eye around a website and call attention to the most important information.
Hierarchy is important to keep in mind as you’re mapping out content on your website because visitors like to scan. By using page headers and creating sections with sub-headers, you make it easier for people to pick up on the themes of each page.
So go through the pages of your site and create an outline for each one that includes headers and subheaders.
For example, the outline for the Elle & Company about page includes a header, a section for all of my main offerings with a summary (and a call-to-action) for each one, and a longer section for my story.
You may not have a lot of sections for each page of your website, and that’s okay.
The goal of these headers and subheaders is to call attention to the most important information and make it easier for your visitors to scan.
Don’t worry about writing out all of the copy or adding visuals just yet. We’ll get to that next in Step 4.
4 | Gather copy and visuals
Now that you know which sections need to be on each page of your website, it’s time to gather copy and images like photos, icons, and other graphics.
The most important thing to remember during this step is consistency.
From a branding perspective, consistency makes your website appear more professional and shows intentionality.
But it’s also helpful from an organizational perspective.
If you have a photo header for each page of your website, you start to create a system that viewers will subconsciously come to expect.
If your visuals and your text are inconsistent, it can be difficult for visitors to get the hang of using your site and find the content they’re looking for.
So come up with an icon style and use it throughout your site. Use branded photos. A consistent icon style. Write in the same tone of voice.
You might find these resources helpful:
How to Create Custom Brand Icons
3 Simple Ways to Improve Your Brand Photos
How Good Website Copy Can Make You More Money, Honey
5 | Optimize your website’s navigation
After reaching a company’s website via a referral, 50% of visitors will use the navigation menu to orient themselves (source).
A visitor shouldn’t have to think extensively about which page they’re going to visit next; your navigation should guide them from page to page and make the decision for them.
So consider which pages are most important and include them in your top navigation. Our eyes naturally move from left to right across a page, so list your pages in a logical order.
But steer clear of including too many pages. Over 6 items in your main navigation can provide too many options and overwhelm your visitors.
If you’re having trouble cutting back on the number of pages in your navigation, consider grouping pages into drop-down menus, moving items down to your footer navigation, or coming up with a creative way to highlight some of those pages in other places on your website.
The design of your website won’t be half as effective if you don’t focus on functionality first.
Spend time organizing your pages and content and you’ll have an easier time generating conversions and encouraging visitors to return to your site time and time again.
Which do you struggle with more: functionality or design? Which of the steps above was the most helpful for you?