Writer’s Weekly Retreat: Organizing Your Site

Organizing your site carefully from the start can save you frustration and time later on. If you begin creating documents without thinking about where in your folder hierarchy they should go, you may end up with a huge, unwieldy folder full of files and an unorganized navigation for your readers to try and sort through.

The usual way to set up a site is to create a folder on your local hard disk that contains all the files for your site (referred to as the local site), and to create and edit documents within that folder. You then copy those files to a Web server when you are ready to publish your site and allow the public to view it. This approach is better than creating and editing files on the live public Web site itself, because it allows you to test changes in the local site before making them publicly viewable. When you’re finished, you can upload the local site files and update the entire public site at once.

Break down your site into categories and put related pages in the same folder. For example, your current book, upcoming titles, and works in progress might all go in one folder called Books, but your author bio and contact information pages should go in a different folder possibly called Author. Use subfolders where necessary. This type of organization will make your site easier to maintain and navigate.

Decide where to put items such as images and cover art files. For example, it’s convenient to place all your images in one location, so that when you want to insert an image into a page, you know where to find it. Designers often create an Images folder where all their site graphics will be placed. For authors, I recommend creating a Cover Art folder within the Images folder so that when you need to access a book cover you don’t have to sort through dozens of site graphics to find them.

Use the same structure for local and remote sites. Your local site (the files on your computer) and your remote website (the files you upload to the server where your website is hosted) should have exactly the same structure.

By setting up your site files in this order, with natural categories and subcategories based on the groupings and related content you will also be creating a useable, easy to follow navigation for your readers. For example, take a look at this sample site structure below:

flowchart
You can see that the files on the author’s computer that they use to create the site, mirror the navigation links the readers will use to get around the site. By setting up your website with a functional flow from the get go, you’ll not only have a easier time finding your files to update, but you can also use it as a way to build a solid navigation structure for your readers.

So in the example above, on the actual site I would have a nice header image and below that three links or tabs that say “Author”, “Books”, and “Links”. Whenever a reader clicks one of the tabs, they are taken to a page that either offers the category information (such as the biography.html under Author) or a page for more options in that category (for example the index.html page under Books would list each book title with links to either read more about the title, read and excerpt or read the reviews).

Often times you will also be linking to and using outside services as part of your website, for example hosting a blog on WordPress or creating a mail group on Yahoo! Groups. In this case, I you would of course include navigation links at the top that would include “Blog” with a link to your WordPress blog and “Newsletter” with a link to your Yahoo! Group.

It can be a little confusing at first and if you have the means I would highly recommend hiring a web designer to at least help you create the flow of your site and build the beginning structure, or revamp the structure you already have. However in this rough economy hiring a designer may not be outside your budget, but not to worry, there are many great places online and many books that can help you in creating a functional, easy to use website. Here are just a few places to get you going:

http://www.rocketface.com/organize_website/organize_website.html

http://www.worldstart.com/tips/tips.php/1763

http://ezinearticles.com/?How-to-Organize-Your-Website&id=290959

http://personalweb.about.com/od/organizeyoursite/Organize_and_Your_Web_Pages_and_Keep_Your_Site_Tidy.htm

And some books you may find helpful:

http://www.amazon.com/Web-Sites-Do-Yourself-Dummies/dp/0470169036/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1235502947&sr=1-1

http://www.amazon.com/Really-Step-Step-Building-Website/dp/1847730736/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1235502993&sr=1-1

http://www.amazon.com/Best-Website-Simple-Successful-Websites/dp/1419690000/ref=sr_1_5?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1235502993&sr=1-5

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~ by danielledevon on February 24, 2009.

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