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Q: Is there an ideal number of categories/subcategories that should be used when planning your website’s taxonomy/navigation?

A: When it comes to building a website, you should always have a strategy in place before you start to build out your taxonomy (which is the blueprint of all the content pages that will live within your site). This strategy will act as a roadmap throughout the website design and development process, guiding you to make intentional, well-thought out decisions that result in the best possible experience for your end-user. Although every site will require a different number of Parent (main navigation) and Child (secondary and tertiary) pages, there are several factors that should be taken into consideration in the strategy process that will help you determine how many pages your website should include. Effective website taxonomies always start with the end-goal in mind.

  • Content: There should always be a sense of hierarchy to your website, putting the most important information in prominent places so that your target audience can access it in as few clicks as possible. Think about your brand, its products and services, and the purpose of the website and what actions you want your users to take when they get there. These considerations will help drive what pages should be displayed in the main navigation.
  • Website Design: Do you plan to have a horizontal navigation menu, a vertical navigation menu, or both? Before drafting your taxonomy, find examples of navigation menus you like on existing websites, keeping in mind that the number of pages you plan to have will impact the design template and the options available to you. For example, if you’re an event planner and you have 15 pages you would like to feature in your website’s main navigation, based on your most important content, it’s not ideal to cram them all into one, horizontal menu. At that point, you can then decide that your best option may be to put the administrative-themed pages (such as Services, Locations, Vendors, About, or Contact) in the horizontal menu, and then put your topical pages in a secondary, left-rail menu (such as Party Planning Ideas, Choosing a Theme, or Budgeting).
  • Usability: Last, but certainly not least, usability should be taken into consideration throughout your website strategy and taxonomy development process. Be very judicious about what pages you select to be in your main navigation, as well as the pages that should fall underneath each. Group content with a similar theme together, and think about where you would expect to find certain pages if you were a user. If you have an existing website, consider implementing a tracking tool, such as Google Analytics, into your site to get a gauge on the existing pages that are highly trafficked on your site. This will help give you an idea of the type of information that your target audience perceives to be the most valuable, and thus should be considered for inclusion within the main or secondary navigation. Remember that every piece of content doesn’t necessarily warrant a new page. Keep your website taxonomy as clean and intuitive as possible so that your user will have a positive experience and, ideally, want to return back again later.
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