Thinking about a Nonprofit Skeleton Site Map

A top-level and drop-down menu, highlighted in context of websiteI could use your feedback.

When looking at website navigation menus,  I see many similarities from one site to another. The similarities increase when looking at a more-specific subset of sites. Nonprofits websites share more in common. Food pantry websites share even more in common. In the end, every single site is a little different, but the commonalities can’t be ignored.

Frequently in web design, people try to establish “benchmarks” for certain types of features. What’s the average load time for these sites? How many social network followers do these types of websites have? How frequently do these websites post to their blog? I’m wondering whether establishing benchmarks for nonprofit website navigation menus might be useful.

In particular, I’m interested in the menu labels and the most common sections of sites. For instance, organizations that have nothing in common with each other still often have a “Programs” section of their website.

I think this could be useful for organizations that are reorganizing—or, for the first time, organizing—their menu. I fear that it might be too constricting, but I alternately  imagine it serving as a valuable spring-board for planning. I’ve seen more than one organization completely stuck on menu reorganization largely, it seems, because they don’t know what other options they have.

This would be a long-term project and I have many details to work out, but I’d love to hear from all of you faithful readers:

  • Would this be useful?
  • What other information would you be interested in?
  • Do you have any concerns about a project like this?

2 thoughts on “Thinking about a Nonprofit Skeleton Site Map”

  1. When considering good navigation, why are you thinking in terms of “benchmarks” rather than “best practices”? (I see you have tagged this post as “best practices.”) I’m guessing that benchmarks are measurable, right?

    How many of your users might want to see various information on your site is good to consider when designing navigation, but that’s not the only criterion. For example, being able to find a physical address (if you have one) and names of people to contact (and other ways for contacting them besides a twitter account) I would consider best practices, but I’m not sure a set of “benchmarks” would include these two items.

    So, how would your project to create benchmarks provide something more useful than referring people to a couple of websites or book chapters about best practices for navigation? Maybe I’m missing something here.

    1. That’s a good question, Chris! I probably should have provided some examples of questions I would hope to answer.

      To give two, I might look to answer:

       * What percentage of websites have an ‘About’ page?

       * Of those sites, how many use ‘About’ and what alternative phrases are commonly used?

      So you’re right that I’d be looking for measurable information.

      My goal wouldn’t be to answer “What content needs to go on a website?”
      but rather “How is that content organized?” Those two pieces of
      information may be inextricably linked—so it’s clearly something I need
      to consider.

      To continue on to the applications of such data, one thing I’m curious about is the label “Get Involved.” I tend to think it’s a bit too broad (it covers everything from volunteering, to joining, to giving, to weird things you’d never think go there), but I would like to know how often each of those sub-categories is lumped under the “Get Involved” banner and what alternatives people are using.

      Does that make more sense?

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