Before you start any website development project, you need to plan your site. One of the first decisions I think you need to make is how to organize the information on your site. The site should be organized so that your ideal prospective client can easily find what they are looking for. There are two options that most small businesses should consider: 1) by content or topic area, or 2) by visitor type. Let’s look at each of these options.

By content or topic area

Organizing your site by the different topics or areas of content that a visitor might be looking for works well when the topics or content is how the visitor will most easily identify with the solution they are looking for. For example, if you have an accounting business and chose this way of organizing your website, you may have categories such as Tax information, Bookkeeping information, Government Requirements, and other relevant topic categories. Within each category, you would list all of the content that applied, regardless of what type of visitor it applied to (ie. personal or business visitor).

By type of visitor

When visitors will look for information based on who they are or the role they play in an organization, having your content organized by visitor type can work well. If we look at an accounting business, this type of website organization may lead to categories such as Business Owners, Employees, Non-profit organizations, and other groups you serve. In each category, you would list content that is important to that type of visitor. The content would cover all the topics that type of visitor would be interested in (ie. tax, regulatory, filing, etc.).

You may think that this choice only matters when a visitor comes to your home page, but you would be wrong. Most visitors to your site will not enter on your home page. They will arrive on a content page from a web search where they are trying to find the solution to a problem they have. The choice of how you organize your website is important for these visitors because it is also used for the organization of the menus that appear on every page of your site. By organizing the menus in a way that your ideal visitor can identify with, you encourage them to find more information that is relevant to their situation. They stay longer on your website, and this increase the likelihood that they conclude you are the expert they are looking for and that they should contact you.

Before you plan your website, think about which of these two methods of organizing your information will work best for your ideal prospect. Making this first important decision will make it easier to plan the rest of the structure of your website. This article gives more details on how to create a one-page site plan.