Join Chris Nodder for an in-depth discussion in this video Showing people what you've got, part of User Experience for Web Designers.
- As we mentioned in chapter four, category pages are the top-level pages for each section of your site. So, they split the content up into the same chunks as your main navigation. They're summary pages providing key points about the information within that section and showing links to deeper or more complete content on underlying topics in detail pages. You can also think of them as mini homepages for each category of information, displaying recent additions and the most popular content, as well as an overview.
In chapter five, we talked about the importance of providing summaries for each detail page on your site. I mentioned how those could be reused as metadata and in other places around the site. Category pages are one of those locations where you can reuse the summary content. Choose some of the most popular or most recent items in each section of the site, and put their summary text on the category page along with a thumbnail image. This is the same recommendation I gave in the homepage chapter, and there's a reason for it.
Providing this consistency through the site allows your visitors to easily understand the site's layout and structure. They follow the area they're interested in, from the homepage to the category page, and then from the category page through to the individual article. Some high profile articles might find their way directly to the homepage, but you can also add those items to the category page as well. Remember, the category page probably has more relevant keywords on it.
So it's quite likely that people who come to your site from a search engine will be dropped on the category page rather than on the homepage. Indeed, category pages are a great way of providing additional search goodness while also helping your visitors. There's no need to keyword stuff because the page summaries are already very keyword-rich for the topics you cover. Now, I want to go back to Fitt's law for a second. When you create the category page, you're aggregating content from several different detail pages into one location.
Now, what bit should be clickable? If you were just copying across the heading, summary text, and the thumbnail image, you're really creating the equivalent of the supermenu on the page. So why not make the whole area into one big target? It's funny seeing tiny "Click Here" or "Read More" links on the page when the whole item could be clickable. It's still worth signaling that the item can be clicked on by, for instance, having an on-hover underline for the heading.
The only time I wouldn't recommend making the whole area clickable is if the pages that you link to are topic pages or detail pages with lots of related links. In other words, pages that themselves have several different items of interest. Here's an example of what I mean. Notice how the summary text contains several links which all point to different detail pages in this topic area. Sometimes, you might also list out other related links directly underneath the summary.
This is most useful on internet sites and other places where you can expect visitors to just have a good understanding of what they're looking for or where they need a little bit of guidance actually getting to the right place. The category page lets them know what vocabulary you use for the terms they care about and helps them choose between several potentially similar items. Obviously, with all these links, there's no one place that a single clickable area will take you. So you just have to make sure that each of the individual link targets is sufficiently large and descriptive.
So the reason to create category pages is that they're a great way to help visitors orient themselves on the site. They help people understand what to expect from each section of a site and they're very heavy in keywords, which makes them a great candidate for high placing in organic search results. Category pages correspond to your navigation menu items. If you only have a small quantity of content on your site, you may not need category pages because you can direct people from the homepage on menus, directly to your detail pages.
As your site grows though, or it you already have a lot of detail pages, then category pages help to keep people on track as they navigate through your site.
User experience expert Chris Nodder teaches
- What people want from websites, how they search for information, how they read online, and how to structure your content to take advantage of this research
- How to use graphics to help rather than hinder visitors, how to integrate video, audio, and other media, and when to consider interactive rather than static content
- How to look at your site's homepage, forms, product pages, and content through the eyes of users to build a site that better meets their needs
- How to balance site content with advertising
There are never enough great interfaces in the world. Take this easy introduction to start making wonderful online experiences for your own users.
- Building a site visitors will like
- Using single, consistent, and standard design principles
- Creating good menus
- Working with site maps
- Adding search to a site
- Arranging content in a layout
- Writing for the web
- Creating category pages and landing pages
- Designing product pages and forms
- Using media and interactive content
- Balancing ads and content