Rethinking sitemaps and homepages

· Information Architecture

Following up on the link to Derek Powazek’s article in a List Apart, here’s Keith Robinson has a similar take on the role of a home page in a site’s information architecture:

Part of this problem stems from the idea that items on a Web site can’t live in more than one place within a taxonomy. This, my friends, is unrealistic, unpractical and well… silly. At least in many cases. It might seems obvious, but it can be a real challenge to get stakeholders to see that it’s ok to put things in more than one grouping, even if it’s just via related item linking. Or, maybe a larger and more common issue, to get them to understand that it’s ok to place something into a grouping where it might not fit 100%.
And then there is the Homepage. They want to know what “lives” on the homepage, and often have large internal struggles to get that sorted out. Struggles that can be an ongoing maintenance drain, let alone the effect of an ever-changing home- or hub- page has on users.
They don’t realize that their stuff might get more visibility on internal content pages. And it’s not just internal stakeholders that have a problem with these ideas. For example, it always amazes me that people will pay more for one homepage ad than they will for a load of internal page ads. It’s doesn’t always make sense when you think about it, especially when there is an opportunity to relate the ad to the content on the page ala Google’s AdSense.
In addition, I can safely say that quite often these struggles are next to meaningless when it comes to helping a user find what they’re looking for. The fact that everything is conveniently grouped within a hierarchy and mapped down from a home page doesn’t help everyone (or even most people) coming to the site looking for information. It can be very helpful to those who begin at the homepage and browse through your site. However, as search engines become more accurate, and as Web services and syndication spread content around the Web and, in some cases, away from the Web browser, this type of behavior will become less and less common.