Identifying Site and Menu Architecture Using GatherContent

At SMILE, we use GatherContent to manage our own website's copy and media content. We have learned that the ability to easily arrange and view our content in this way has highlighted how this system can be further used as a powerful tool to identify or improve site map and menu architecture. Here, we share some of our key learnings.
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Self-Organising Content

Regardless of our preferred operating system, we are all familiar with organising our work into folders and subfolders. But when it comes to our websites, depending on the CMS systems that have shaped our content organisation, we often do not file our posts and pages in the same way.

Often, it is the way we use category tags, URL structure and other metadata which ends up shaping where content sits within a website. Once a well-planned website is up and running, this is great. It means a CMS can take care of its own structure in the background while we only need to worry about dealing with content on a piece-by-piece basis. The downside is, without a human eye to guide the process, it can soon seem as if our website is generating its own monstrous site architecture. The potential for a confusing or even overwhelming flow of content relationships on a site can be especially apparent when viewed from the point of view of, for example, its navigation menu.

And if this architecture is difficult for a content manager to make sense of, chances are it’s going make even less sense to an end-user…

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Using Folders to Imitate Menu Architecture

…which brings us back to folders. It sounds simple, but folders can be used to create a blueprint for a new site or menu architecture long before being populated by actual content. Using GatherContent’s ‘content map’ view, we can see the parent-child relationships throughout a project’s file tree. From the project’s sidebar, we can choose to view the map of the entire project or to narrow down on a particular subsection. Once in the content map view, we can collapse children into their parent folders and even open up new branches to view in new windows.

This tool allows us to take a step back from our day-to-day piece-by-piece view of content and take a look at how our content looks mapped out in a potential site architecture or even a menu structure. This view can help us better understand common problems such as buried content, poor user flow and frustrating navigation.

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Try it yourself. Perhaps experiment by mapping your own site’s current content structure into folders and subfolders and go from there. It’s helping us with a current reshaping of our own site – we hope it can help you too.

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