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Real world information architecture tips
Based on what your users need and/or want to see, you need to structure your content within topics, or high-level containers that are typically content-specific sections. As an example, we will take a look at http://plone.org.
When visitors enter a Plone site, no matter how deep they go, the navigation tends to stay the same. The following screenshot shows that a visitor is in the Documentation section of the site, with the opportunity to drill down within this section for additional documentation topics:
By default, Plone has a portlet that shows the navigation aids on the left-hand side of the browser, which helps the visitors navigate within the subject matter. In this example, there are several subsections below Development.
Structuring your content
When planning your site, you must first decide how you want to structure your content. The structuring can be worked out through brainstorming sessions with other people involved with your site, in order to come up with a structure suits your business objectives. Investigating other sites that share your organization’s model could be a good starting point towards developing your final solution.
To really understand how Plone can be an effective solution for your content delivery needs, we will take a look at how to implement Plone for a High School web site. In this type of structure, you will see how some content is targeted at all users, while other content is tailored to specific users.
We will use the following high-level topics for demonstration purposes:
- PTO (Parent-Teacher Organization)
In order to create these sections, we will first create folders for the above sections, into which you will add content. Each of the above sections will be visible in your top-level navigation. Within each top-level folder, we will also create subfolders to help you to structure your content.
To create a folder, go to your homepage, select Add new… and choose the Folder option from the drop-down list, as shown in the following screenshot:
Specify the Title and the optional Description. In this case, we will create a folder for the Academics section:
We’re going to just keep the defaults here; we will cover the Settings tab shortly.
Click on Save, and then make sure that your folder has been published:
Now take a look at the overall navigation structure:
There is now a new tab in your navigation bar, which represents a container for holding all of the content that will be part of the academics section of the site. You will follow the same process to create the rest of the top-level tabs.
First, we will need to make a change to the default tab behavior in Plone. Specifically, we want to remove Users as a top-level navigation item. Removing it from the tab navigation does not mean that it no longer exists; we’re just making sure that items that are more important to this specific site are shown to the visitors and users.
To remove Users from the navigation bar, click on the Users tab, and then select Edit. Once you are in Edit mode, there is the section where you can select Settings. You can then select the Exclude from navigation checkbox.
After saving your changes, you can see that the tab Users is no longer part of your navigation:
Using the same process for adding new folders, we’ll add Sports, Clubs and PTO. We end up with the following:
Now that we have the top-level structure in place, we can focus on what will need to go within each topic. The process is similar, with the difference being that you need to be within the given topic before creating the next level of folders.
When you create folders in the Home section, you have the ability to create top-level tabs. Creating folders within the other top-level folders you create allows you to be more specific for the given topic. We will use the example of the Sports top-level tab for creating an additional folder/site structure. We will need to create the following sub-folders:
- Track and Field
To do so, we must drill down into the Sports folder and add new folders within it. Once you have added these folders under the Sports section, the Navigation to the new folders is available in the leftmost side of your browser window:
Note that the navigation shows only the contents of the current folder. This can be adjusted via the Manage portlets link, which is available on the home page, below the left and right columns. This link is also accessible via http://www.mysite.com/@@manage-portlets, where www.mysite.com is the name of your Plone site. Simply set the Start Level to 0 and save your changes.
Now that the structure for the Sports folder is in place, let’s take a look at how you can change the order of display of the folders. If the football season is over, it may make sense to move this category to the bottom of the navigation. To change the order of the Football folder, go to the Contents view under Sports, then click in the Order column for the Football row. The row will turn yellow, and the cursor will change to a four-headed arrow, which indicates that the content object can be moved. Drag the row up or down in the list, to the desired location.
Now, when you click on the top level of Sports, the navigation listing appears in the new location that you have just defined:
Now, let’s take the new folder structure created under the Sports section, and create some more folders that are specific to each sub topic.
Select a folder, and then go to the Contents tabbed page. In this example, we will create the following folders under the Soccer folder, which is under the Sports folder:
- Junior Varsity
As identified in the preceding screenshot, the breadcrumbs navigation shows the progression through the site. You can also see how the navigation within the Sports section can grow to fit specific content.
By understanding these concepts that apply creating folders for your navigation structure, you will be well on your way to having consistent navigation throughout your site.