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Thumbnail sketch of pages common to most Web sites.
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A good web site has a front page that provides an overview of their site. A better web site has a front page that grabs a visitor’s interest and makes them want to explore the site further. — Tim Priebe
Most (not all) Web sites have a specific set of pages in common with one another. Every Web site, bar none, has a “home page,” even if there is nothing but a home page. Then there are the others usually found on a site: contact pages, descriptions of products or services, a page about the site owner(s), a link page, others. In this page, I’m not insisting that all Web sites have the exact same pages. This is an overview of the pages most commonly found on most Web sites, and why they exist.
Much of the material on this page is adapted from information provided by Tim Priebe, in his book Webifiable. Priebe’s focus is on commercial sites (sites that buy and sell commodities), but I’ve stretched and adapted his material to be more generally relevant.
You could also call this the “main” or “welcome” page. This is the portal that leads to the rest of your site. There is no need to ram giant gobs of information on this page! What this page needs to do is, within five to ten seconds of a visitor landing on this page, give that visitor enough information to let them know what your site is, what it does, what information can be garnered, and what the visitor can do on the page, whether it be to buy a product, donate to a cause, find something fun, or look up information.
This page tells the user something about the site owner. Basically, it introduces the owner to the world, sets a friendly and competent tone, and establishes the owner’s bona fides — yes, the owner of this site knows how to design a Web page, fix a transmission, rescue stranded cats, get a candidate elected, make a fun video, or whatever. It’s also a good place for a history of you/your organization/your firm,
Some sites, depending on the content and structure of the site, might call this a “portfolio” or “samples” page. Basically, this tells the site visitor what the organization or person has done in the past, and gives an idea of what the organization/person is up to now. You might incorporate a gallery or virtual tour here (or give them separate pages).
If your staff, or contributors, or volunteer base, or whatever you call them, is big enough, they should have their own page. If not, this information can go in the About page. The people who work in the organization or company need recognition; this is one place to grant them that recognition.
This links your site to other sites around the Internet – sites that complement your site, that provide excellent information or products (or whatever) in relation to your own site, and so forth. Unless you’ve built a personal Web site, this isn’t a collection of “links to my homeys’ sites” or “sites I like” or a blogroll or whatever. Some more business-oriented sites might term this a “partners” page.
Here’s the page where your site visitors get in touch with you. It could be as simple as an e-mail address, or as complex as a contact form. It could have links to your Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, or other social networking sites. The more options a site visitor has in contacting you, the more likely they are to reach out to you.
This might go on your Contact page, or it might be separate, especially if you include detailed directions, a fancy map, or something that would overly clutter the Contact page. You might call this a “map” or “directions” page. If it’s important for people to find you in the real world, you need this information on your site. If you have a virtual tour, or a professional-appearing video (not something your girlfriend whipped out on her cell phone), this is a good place to include that.
This page keeps your site visitors abreast of current events. Tell your visitors what you and/or your organization is doing now, and what plans they have for the future. It’s also a good place for press/media outreach, and a calendar, though you might want a separate page or two for that information. Many sites are using blogs instead of static “news” pages nowadays, or using Facebook or other social networking sites to post their news.
FAQ stands for “Frequently Asked Questions,” and if your site requires it, you should have a cleanly written, straightforward question and answer section. Anticipate the questions site visitors are most likely to ask, and incorporate new answers as the visitors ask questions you never thought of (and they always will).
Your visitors will use a sitemap more often than you might think. When they get lost or confused, the sitemap is always there to help them navigate around the place. We’re not necessarily talking about those fancy XML concoctions that search-engine optimizers slobber over, just a simple page of links to the various pages on your site.