Content Organization Made Simple With Mr. Potato Head

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Anne Dorko smiling while holding a drawing of Mr. Potato Head

Mr. Potato Head sat alone, dismantled on the living room floor. I refused to pick him up, no matter how many timeouts I received. As it goes, my messy and stubborn disposition dates well back into childhood. All it took was a simple request for organization to turn me into a pouty mess.

Comic: Someone asking a child to clean up their toys.

Enjoying our passions and standing firm in our beliefs – often with the innocent defiance of children – makes us great bloggers. But it can ruin the harmony in our relationships, including our readers.

Before you worry about the code or technology behind your website, consider how you organize the content itself.

Mr. Potato Head was one of my favorite toys. But my little sister sure didn’t like having to look for the pieces when I left him scattered across the room. In the same way, you have amazing content others would love to read. Yet, if you refuse to put it where people can find it, they simply won’t benefit from it.

Pictured: You keeping great content away from your readers.

Pictured: Me being a terrible older sister, and you keeping great content away from your readers.

Today, you’ll learn what it means to organize website content, and why it’s so important. By the end, you should feel confident to start taking action for your own site. This will help you share one of your favorite passions in a way that others can enjoy it, too.

Comic of two kids sharing a toy.

And we all know sharing is caring.

What Does it Mean to Organize Website Content?

Mr. Potato Head is a puzzle where the rules don’t matter. You organize the pieces depending on what makes most sense to you. The same goes for your website content. What exactly you choose to do with it depends on the game you’re playing, and who else joins you.

I don’t know about you, but it’s been a while since I broke out Mr. Potato Head. Here’s a refresher on the decisions we make when it’s time to play:

  1. The Big Picture: Decide on the game. Is it fantastical, and his eyes will go where his ears should be? Or will he look and function like a normal character?
  2. The Setting: Mr. Potato Head comes with a lot of looks. Is he angry, or happy? Is he going to a business meeting or hanging out on the beach with the missus?
  3. The Gritty Details: When it’s time to put Mr. Potato Head together, you get to choose the exact facial features and accessories to fit the game you want to play.

Maybe this all sounds like child’s play right now, but there are huge benefits to going through each of these stages for your site. Not only does well organized content create a solid user experience, it provides a semantic context for search engines.

So, how exactly do you turn playing with Mr. Potato Head into a strategy for content organization? Here are the three decision making stages, and how to move forward with them for your content.

The Big Picture: Navigation

Navigation sets the big picture by creating a portal through which to access the content.

Website navigation is the grouping of links that is present on every page of a website, typically leading to other pages within the same site.

This is the highest organization level for your website. Since you take your website far more seriously than Mr. Potato Head, you should spend some time on this. Are you going to be playful, and risk confusing the visitor? Or will you go standard, but feel confident that a new reader can find their way around without help?

Here are the essentials you should think about:

  • Menu Position: Standard menus are either horizontal and stay above all the content, or in a vertical stack to the left. People simply won’t look anywhere else.
  • Menu Item Names: Generic names are easy to understand, but don’t tell the reader much. Too vague means nobody will click the link. Look for the sweet balance of unique and descriptive, but err on the side of informative.
  • Menu Styles: Go simple and small, because otherwise the visitor stops paying attention. Skip the dropdown menus and limit your navigation to five items or less.

The Setting: Content Groups

The way you group content together defines the setting (or tone) of your website. You are only limited by your imagination!

Remember, Mr. Potato Head sports a variety of looks to handle different situations. What situations do you want your website to handle? What should your content be able to do? What common themes can you find? These underlying themes and interconnected ideas should be made accessible for the reader.

Think about what different content buckets suit these situations. Make it easy for your reader to grab for what they want, when they want it.

Categorized content helps readers understand how your blog applies to them.

Here are a few ways you can group content on your blog, from a technical perspective:

  • Categories and Tags: Organize your blog posts by tying together common topics.
  • Landing Pages: Create unique landing pages that link out to useful content, depending on what the target reader of the landing page. For example: Put together a guide using blog posts you’ve already written by listing them in the proper reading order.
  • Extra Resources: Build resources that go beyond the blog post. Two examples are creating an FAQ to answer common reader questions, or a glossary to explain recurrent terms and phrases.

The Gritty Details: On-Page

The gritty details are the elements that guide a reader through each individual page. These are headings, lists, images, widgets, and anything else that might show up on a webpage.

These elements, used together, dictate the success of the big picture and setting. No matter how clear the rest of your organization is, the on-page details may matter the most. If a reader doesn’t understand how to get information from the page, they surely won’t stick around long.

When you look at Mr. Potato Head, it is easy to see the big picture and the setting by looking at the facial features and accessories you chose. They all tie together.

The same goes for your blog posts and pages. Can the person who lands there identify what is going on immediately? If you aren’t able to easily incorporate the following tips, you may need to tweak your page structure:

  • Use clear, concise headings. Headings throughout your posts allow the reader to skim through and quickly understand the content.
  • Use lists to group related data. Lists make it easy to spot relevant information within a post.
  • Use relevant media. Images help readers understand ideas. It makes it easier to pay attention by breaking monotony and providing visual context to the text.

How to Start With Simple Content Organization

Content organization is no joke. Ignoring it means excluding your audience from properly experiencing your blog. Refusing to deal with it denies your readers, the same way I denied my sister the enjoyment of Mr. Potato Head when I was too stubborn to clean up after myself.

By looking at the big picture, creating a setting, and drilling down on the gritty details, your site can go from haphazard happenstance to delightful user experience.

Anne Dorko holding a drawing of Mr. Potato Head

Extra pro tip: A big grin can take you a long way.

Here are the central takeaways to apply going forward:

  1. Think about the tone your navigation sets for the user. What information is learned just by reading the menu items?
  2. Consider different ways to organize the central themes and ideas on your blog. What different content buckets can you create to make it more accessible?
  3. Make each page as easy to read as possible. How can you collect and organize the information on the page in a more effective manner?

What do you struggle with most when it comes to content organization on your blog? Let me know in the comments below and I’ll help you sort it out with the help of my ol’ pal, Mr. Potato Head.

Learn more about content organization and how it ties in to SEO with a free copy of our ebook, Make Your Content Count. Simply subscribe to the Semantics blog:

Author

About Anne Dorko

Anne is always sharpening her web strategy skills, from design to content creation. She helps people like you succeed online by sharing insight from her 10 years of experience. Go get your 30 minute consultation while orientations are still free!

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4 comments Leave a comment

  1. Hi Anne! Great article. Thanks for linking to my article on dropping drop down menus. Your method is a good transition for people looking to make that upgrade 🙂

    • Hey Peter, thanks for having such a useful article to refer people to. 🙂 …and for stopping by to check this out. Together, we can help drop dropdowns from the face of the internet! Muahaha. (Sorry. Getting carried away now.)

  2. Yours and Peter’s posts gave me the vocabulary to describe my problem. My struggle is trying to figure out what should be a post and what should be a page in WordPress. The Cornerstone approach is helpful, although I’m not sure yet which of a cluster of keywords will be best for me. It looks like I can write them as posts and then cut and paste them into pages as long as I keep the same keyword and permalink? Thanks Anne!

    • Hey Cecile! Thanks for your comment 🙂

      The line between ‘page’ and ‘post’ has certainly become blurred these days. As you said, pages tend to be cornerstone content that is the most important for people to read when they arrive to the site. In other words – what does any reader need to be able to find out within 2 or 3 clicks? Those should probably be pages.

      But yes – you can absolutely publish content as posts and then decide to change them into pages later! It really comes down to the formatting of the final product. Posts usually focus on social shares and comments, while landing pages tend to be about some other call to action or is a high-level information page that is vital for the website to make sense.

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