Information Architecture

Academic department site navigation should follow the same IA guidelines as the College site as a whole. In reviewing the current IAs for departments and programs, we’ve found a few of these to be particularly relevant:
  • Keep navigation lists under control. Sub-page navigation lists should be no more than 8-10 links long. Many sites have more than this.
  • Link only to pages within the section. With few exceptions, the navigation should link to internal pages only. Links that are part of the primary navigation should never lead to another site or to a PDF or other downloadable file.
  • Do not repeat link titles within the same section navigation. Some departments have an Admissions link that outlines the requirements for being admitted into the program. Though “admissions” does describe this content, we suggest folding that information into a Requirements section (as noted below).

Recommended academic department top-level navigation

The links proposed below represent categories of information found on many of the current sites. We tried to use the most common terminology among the departments to maintain consistency with the current sites. To help students easily find similar information across departments, these links should appear in the same order.

  • Department or Program Name
  • [About Dept or Program name]
  • Courses
  • Requirements
  • Faculty
  • [Beyond the Classroom]
  • Resources
  • [Student & Faculty Research or Collaborations]
  • [Our Alumni]
  • [News & Events]

As noted above, the navigation for all department/program sites should have a good deal of similarity, making it easier for students to find the same information when flipping between these sites. There should also be room for some deviation from the set of standard links. It can be hard to find a perfect level of conformity and individuality. A good rule of thumb is that information common to all departments – Courses, Faculty, Requirements, News & Events, etc. should all be given the same link titles.

Those departments with unique programs/attributes or less content should be allowed to edit the standard IA. For instance, the Performing Arts will need links for Dance, Music, and Theatre, and Physics & Astronomy may want a link for the Geissberger Observatory. The number of links should reflect the amount of content on the site. The [bracketed] links above denote optional pages/sections, so departments with less content may have only 4 or 5 links when the site launches. Any variations should be reviewed by Communications on a case-by-case basis. Individualized department links should be added above News & Events.

Regarding links currently used on department sites not seen above, we recommend:


  • moving Contact Us information to the homepage; and
  • evaluating the Learning Outcomes content and working those points into examples presented on the department homepage, on the About ______ page, and/or on the Our Alumni page. A focus on outcomes is important and we are glad to see this page already part of most department sites, but an abstract list of skills or theories one will master is not as effective as illustrating actual outcomes.