Site Structure

The Faculty of Arts has established a standardized site structure based on unit and user feedback in order to help improve the user experience across all Arts sites.

Information architecture

The information architecture (IA) refers to the organization of a website. It describes the ways in which different pages and posts on your site relate to one another and ensures content is organized in a consistent and predictable way on each page and Arts site.

To improve the user experience across all Faculty of Arts sites, we have established a consistent information architecture for our academic unit sites that is organized based on user goals instead of by audience type (i.e., using goal-based page titles, like “Undergraduate Program” instead of audience-based page titles, like “Current Students”).

During our research and testing process, we found that audience-based page titles add an extra cognitive step for users to self-identify before navigating the site, thus resulting in taking more time to find what they are looking for and accomplish their goals. We also found that content for various audiences was similar, which resulted in a lot of duplicated content across the site and increased user confusion.

For example, some content for prospective students is similar to the content for current students, as both of their goals is to learn more about the undergraduate program and course details. Instead of having the same program details listed under both a “Current Student” section and “Prospective Student” section, we created a “Undergraduate > Programs” page that is based on user goals and has all the necessary details for both audiences, so users can can quickly navigate to what they are looking for without having to self-identify first.

It is recommended to maintain this site structure when adding new content and pages to your site. 

Page hierarchy

Cognitive science tells us that most people can store between five to nine items in their short term memory (Miller’s Magic Number = 7). This means that your site should not exceed more than nine options at any level of the navigational hierarchy.

Ideally, the fewer levels people need to click through, the quicker and least confusing it should be for them to access what they want. To make your site more accessible, aim for your site to have three or four levels of hierarchy only. Consider creating subpage categories and consolidating your content.

Mutual exclusivity

To limit confusion for our site users, please ensure that your page names at the same level of the navigational hierarchy are mutually exclusive of one another.

For example, if a user is looking for program information, make sure to include all program information under one second-level section (Undergraduate > Psychology Programs), so they only have one path option to complete their desired task.

Top level pages

The top few levels of the information architecture hierarchy are the pages that most users will be interacting with first — arriving either through the main navigation or through external search.

These pages should be very compelling because they can draw on all the content that is under them in the hierarchy. Ensure that these pages give the user a detailed overview of what can be found in each subsection below the current page using modules and internal linking.

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