Building your site: Secondary pages

About Us

Now that you've created a welcoming front door, it's time to create your secondary pages. These pages can fall into two categories. On a small site made up of just a few pages, your secondary pages will hold your primary content. On a larger site, such as our Department of Cartooning site, the secondary page must both include useful content and serve as a gateway to the other pages in that section of the site.

Gateway to enlightenment

When I describe a page as a gateway, I mean it to be a page through which a user can find all other pages in this sectional area. On this page you will see a menu on the left that clearly illustrates what information is available. You will also find content on this page that is descriptive of the topic at hand. As is true of the main page, this content tells users they've arrived in the right place and gives them additional information.

As an example, let's consider the "About Us" page on the cartooning site. "About Us" is often considered a catch-all sort of phrase, but it's a section that belongs on most web sites. It contains the most basic information that may be of interest to users, it explains your mission, and offers information on how to contact you to learn more. With that in mind, I wrote a few paragraphs for this page that I felt best described the department and it's mission.

Given that this department doesn't exist, I based this on what I imagined such a department would be at a university like Case. It wouldn't offer mere vocational training for aspiring cartoonists, but would draw on the scholarship of many departments to create a program that would give students a broad-based liberal learning experience. To give an overview of this I included the following types of information:

  • Who might be interested in this department?
  • Which fields of study are included in the program?
  • What are some unique aspects of cartooning?
  • How do we address the challenges posed by this field?
  • What do our students do after graduation

If you read the page, you'll notice that I didn't need to go into a lot of detail to address these questions. I just wanted to include enough information to serve my potential audience so they could understand what we do and why. As we've discussed before, this audience could include potential students, parents, professors, researchers, media, etc.

When deciding what to include I tried to imagine who would go to this page and what they would expect and need to find. In the real world, we would also rely on marketing research. I find it can also be helpful to test my content with a few "what if" scenarios.

  • If I were a student trying to choose a major would this information entice me? Would I want to learn more? Would I consider majoring in cartooning?
  • If I were a student who's father had just screamed, "What sort of major is cartooning? How are you going to pay rent when you graduate?" would I be able to send him to this page? Would it sooth his mind and inspire him to learn more?
  • If I were a newspaper editor looking to hire a new editorial cartoonist, would this let me know that my applicant received the right training?
  • If I were a professor from another university looking for partners for a research study, would this page inspire confidence?

I'm sure you can come up with numerous such examples for your own sites.

Design Elements

Secondary pages using the Case templates use the same banner and footer as the main page, a left hand sectional menu, and an open area for your main content. You have enormous flexibility in this area so long as you don't change the fonts and colors or include sloppy looking graphics.

For this page I chose a simple layout with a small photo floating to the right. I used an illustration of the design studio with some locational information as it seemed fitting for the page, but I could also have considered photos of students or faculty, images of people drawing, etc. If this were a real page, I might have had a student or faculty member create a series of one square cartoons about the department that I could scatter throughout the site. These would both offer some visual interest and create a unifying theme.

For your own pages you could consider using a right-hand side bar such as the Annual Fund page, paragraphs with thumbnail photos such as the Campus Tours page, a combination of photos, text and tables as found on our weather page, or any number of other layout options.

However you choose to arrange your content on the page, just keep in mind that the content is appropriate to the page and that the page is easy-to-read and uncluttered. If do that you'll be well on your way.

Next time: Digging deeper into the site with tertiary pages

Next >>

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6 Comments »
  1. Thanks for the clearly written and easy to follow instructions. Also, way to get the Annual Fund in there! :)

    Comment by Gretchen Denaro — February 15, 2006 @3:56 pm

  2. I like to make my first level of interior pages my true content pages as you suggest. After you have enticed a visitor to "click through" to an interior, you have to present them with intriguing information in an un-cluttered format. I'm sometimes a big "wordy" with some of my interiors, which I feel is a mistake. The average time spent on a page is what, 37 seconds? Too much blah blah blah just increases the risk that my visitor will click out. I like use of images to draw attention on interior pages.

    Comment by Naperville Real Estate — May 1, 2007 @1:57 am

  3. I guess there isnt much wrong with having a good amount of text on a page, as long as its organised well. Text is actually good for search engines.

    Comment by web design — June 27, 2007 @4:51 pm

  4. This is good, clear advice on useful organization. Too many designers seem to forget that there are actually going to be people trying to navigate through their pages. When the pages are configured in an instinctual way, it makes for a better experience.

    Comment by Casey — January 19, 2008 @2:14 pm

  5. From Ploiesti/Romania U've got a big A!! At last something really usefull about web development philosophy ! Thanks

    Comment by petre — May 5, 2008 @11:21 am

  6. Thanks you so much, from the beginning to this current page you have provide a wealth of information, clear and concise for an everyday girl working towards building her website.

    Comment by Gypsy — October 11, 2008 @3:30 pm

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