WEB DESIGN -- Pyramid Information Structure

Longer Web Pages Should Be Designed With A Pyramid-type Structure.


Although many aspects of a webpage can reflect the traditional communication style used on the pages of a typical print-media magazine, or the chapter in a printed book, there are some critical aspects of designing a webpage that are unique to Web media. One such aspect is the strategy of using a "pyramid" information structure to communicate the content of a webpage.


With this structure, the main point made on the webpage should be included in the HTML "Title" for the page, and in the top "Heading" of the webpage body area. The "Title" can be thought of as being at the "top" of the pyramid, and the "Heading" is the next level down on the pyramid. For example on this webpage that you are viewing, the point being made in the content of this page is that a "pyramid information structure" should be used in the design of a webpage. So the words "Pyramid Information Structure" are used for the "Title" of the page as displayed on your brower's tab, and the words "Pyramid Information Structure" are also included in the top heading of this page.


On a longer webpage, the "Conclusion" to the information being presented in the webpage content/article should be presented after the heading, and represents the next level down on the pyramid. Ideally this conclusion should be no more that a paragraph in length, and can be displayed in bold type face if such bold type enhances the esthetics of the webpage. Larger type may also be used in lieu of bold type. On a shorter webpage, a sub-heading may suffice in lieu of a conclusion. Such a sub-heading has been used on this AWA7.org webpage you are now looking at.


After the conclusion, the detailed information can then be presented in the remaining body area of the webpage, using additional sub-headings as useful to hold reader attention, just as in a magazine article.



There is a logical reason for presenting the information on a webpage in the pyramid manner as described above, a layout that is different that that used in a typical magazine article. A print media magazine article is written from the premise that the prospective reader needs to be motivated to purchase the magazine. If the conclusion was presented at the beginning of the article, the reader could easily read it and then ascertain that this concluding information is all they need to know, and they may not be motivated to purchase the magazine. If the magazine has already been purchased, for example by regular subscription, the magazine publisher assumes that the reader will be motivated to read the article if they are interested in the topic. Even if the print article doesn't get read, this is no loss to the publisher as the magazine has already been paid for.


In contrast, on a website the information presented is typically free. What is most valuable is the site visitor's time. Most Web surfers don't spend much time looking at any one website or any one webpage. If there is a webpage that looks too wordy, or is too long, or if it looks like they will be forced to read through a whole bunch of text in order to find out what the page is trying to say, then the site visitor will most likely move on elsewhere. One click of the mouse and they are gone!  So it is imperative to let the site visitor know up-front what the content on a webpage is all about. This is presented in the heading and sub-heading or conclusion that follows. After reading this, if the site visitor is interested in the topic of the page they can then read on into the details.






Author: David Buxton


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