Managing Navigation

As I mentioned in other design tuturials, good navigation is one of the most important design structures you will create. Your main consideration is that it should be more or less obvious how one will find the information “hidden” on your website. You also don't want to be overbearing in your navigation, overloading menus with too many submenus, making a 19th century style taxonomy of your intellectual life with obscure families, genera, and species.

Here are some brief thoughts about menus:

1. The standards (About, Blog, Projects, Publications) are not bad choices. Unless you are reorganizing your portfolio in a nontraditional way, you probably don't want to steer too far from these as main categories.

2. If blogging, creating categories is an excellent and easy practice. You can then create links to those categories in sidebar menus (look for them in the widgets section in either Wordpress or Weebly). Tagging posts and pages is a type of narrow folksonomy, a taxonomic practice that allows for mutable classification without having to create a hierarchy of values for your work. You can tag multiple types of content with a single category, allowing for a potentially more useful way to organize not only your blog and news feed, but also your static pages, making it easy for users to find interrelated content.

3. Don't clutter your website with too many navigational options. A main menu and a sub menu per category is ample. If you are required to have lots of disclaimers and necessary information (such as legal disclaimers, terms of service, or some such), you can go the corporate route and have a fine-print footer that doesn't detract from the parts of your project you do want to highlight (your work, your self).

4. Make sure that your main menu is “sticky,” and appears on every page. If you are using Wordpress or Weebly, this will almost certainly never be a problem because of the archtiecture of the software (using PHP, an acronym that recursively stands for PHP: Hypertext Processor, which generally pulls content from a hidden database written in MySQL, and populates your website by separating different areas with different database queries or static methods (TL;DR: your menu will probably stay put)). Just make sure it does, because if it disappears, your visitor becomes totally unmoored.

5. If using Wordpress, make sure you make your permalinks pretty. There's an option in Settings>General that gives you that very option. The default is the actual database query at the end of your url (like www.foo.com/index.php?id=6). For Weebly, you must enter a custom permalink when editing your post. If you use human readable terms, then even if your vistors get lost, they'll be able to follow the breadcrumbs back home. Using clean permalinks is good for other reasons too: search engine indexing, sharing links with others, knowing where you are on your site during editing/testing.

6. Managing navigation includes managing how people visit your site. For a general portfolio site, you want a top-level domain (www.foo.com, not www.foo.com/~bar64), that isn't horribly long. It's ok to abbreviate your name or have a thematically named site that references your work or aesthetics or ideology. My main website, www.christopherlirette.com, is, in my opinion too long, and while I'm keeping it, I'm also building climagiste.com (my internet name since 2005, an homage to H.D., the modernist poet).

That said, you might not want something as silly as that.

You do, however, want to have your “real name” on your site, probably in the title. When colleagues, students, future employers, or future friends meet you (or expect to meet you), they will google you. There's nothing you can do about it. So part of having a presence on the web is at least trying to control your reputation on the internet by providing google and klout and whoever else the content they need to aggregate your online identity.

That being said, I wouldn't spend too much time trying to manipulate google's hermetic algorithms in your favor, just make sure that if someone googles your name, your website comes up.