This document is a supplement to
Editing for Clear Communication
Copyright 1996-1999,
Thom Lieb


No portion may be reused without the author's permission.

Return to
Table of Contents

Further Reading:
Mindy McAdams, "Back to the Drawing Board," American Journalism Review

Mindy McAdams,
"Web Site Sections:
Art and Practice,"

The Editorial Eye

To learn more about this college editing textbook or to order an educational review copy, please visit
McGraw Hill.


Editing for the Web

Navigation

Good design alone is no guarantee that visitors to your site will stay long. Once they're there, you have to make it easy for them to gather the information they want, as well as to find other parts of your site. You can accomplish this partly through the use of site maps and other features, but each page also must be set up to make reading and navigation easy. As Mindy McAdams writes in a column for the online edition of American Journalism Review,
"In the way that buildings are designed so that they allow for movement through and within them, so a successful online information space is designed for ease of navigation"

Easy-to-navigate sites require consideration of many factors, and Mario Garcia knows them all. Garcia has led hundreds of newspapers in their efforts to redesign. Recently, he's turned his attention to designing Web sites for newspapers and other clients. One thing that he's found, Garcia says, is that readers like their text with no interruptions. Efforts to dress up a page of information with graphics, pull quotes and other items are not popular with readers: They want their information, and they want it uncluttered.

That presents a problem when you have a lot of information on one Web page. In that case, you should devise a way for readers to skim the text to find the most relevant parts. In this document, I have boldfaced key ideas to accomplish that. CNN Interactive uses subheads in its news stories, with all subheads also provided as links at the top of each article. (Here's an example.)

Even hyperlinks can disrupt a reader's progress. CNN keeps its links separate from articles (links to photos and videos are included within the text). Dominique Paul Noth includes links in his online media column, Dom's Domain, but alerts readers at the start that the links are repeated at the end of each column, so they can read straight through, then go surfing.

Web producers also have to be careful to provide readers easy access to other parts of their sites. Using a Table of Contents is a common technique, one that works well as long as visitors are given adequate information about what they'll find at the site. Some sites, such as Harley-Davidson's, incorporate a visual table of contents as part of the logo at the top of each page. Others, including the Charlotte Observer's Charlotte.com, run their table of contents down the left side of the page (usually on what's become known as "the rail").

At some sites, readers find navigation tools at the bottom of each page. But other sites, such as MSNBC, offer readers the chance to jump from any page to any other main section of the site. ( Slate offers a particularly useless version of the bottom index, listing only page numbers, with no indication of what's on the pages!)

Complex sites, with features hidden three or four layers down, should include a search engine that lets visitors type in keywords to find what they're looking for.

It's also a good idea to provide identification on each page. Doing so is useful both for visitors who link to your site from another site, as well as for readers who print out pages for later reference. At a minimum, each page should include title, author and copyright information; adding the URL of each page is a nice touch, too.

Now that you know the basics of navigation, why not move ahead by clicking the "Next page" link below?

Next page Table of Contents Email the author