With a site that has over two hundred fifty pages and more than three thousand links, it is important to have an organizational structure that is easy for visitors to navigate. The old site grew organically for over 20 years with the site’s founder adding pages and connecting links whenever new material came his way. While this sort of structure worked perfectly when the site was small, as it continued to grow to its current size, it became difficult to navigate since many pages weren’t linked to the main navigation.
As we began redesigning the site, we had to decide how we would organize and present all of the content that had been collected over the years. We wanted to make sure that our organizational structure made sense for the audience of the site so that the transition from the original site to the one that we’ve designed went smoothly. Ultimately, we wanted to create a site that is easy to navigate and useful for everyone, no matter how familiar they may or may not be with Sherlock Holmes and Sherlockian.net.
To begin the redesign process, we needed to get a better understanding of the original site. The way we did this was by collecting a content inventory and printing out every page. This gave us an understanding of the content that was available on the original site, and we found that the site had a really interesting and dynamic link structure. In other words, most of the links were organized based on content, and there were several areas where content looped back on itself and took users to portions of the site with content that was related to the page they were on. We didn’t want to completely lose this type of linking, so we decided to continue adding internal links while ensuring that the user always knew where they were in the site and how they got there.
Once we got a handle on the content, we had to decide what our primary goals were with the redesign. Ultimately, we really wanted to create a space that was easy for users to navigate and that encouraged participation and engagement. To do this, we had to rethink the overall navigational structure and method of categorizing content for the site. After some research, we decided to use action verbs such as “Investigating” instead of nouns such as “Investigate” in order to encourage active participation.
The site is organized as follows:
The Welcome page (Holmes) showcases collections and events. This space changes based on what is happening in the community, but there are always pages on the site that are featured so visitors can discover something new.
The Investigating section is all about the canon. The pages hosted here contain information about the original 60 stories, reviews, and additional resources.
The Adapting section shows the ways that the Sherlock Holmes stories have been taken and changed over the years. This includes information about tv shows, films, novels, radio, plays, pastiches, and fan fictions.
The Celebrating section is all about the ways fans have come together to talk about Sherlock Holmes. Within these pages, you can find information about societies, conferences, conventions, and collecting/memorabilia.
The Teaching section is a place where the Beacon society can make connections with educators. This section contains resources for teachers who are looking to include information about the Great Detective in their classes.
The Sharing section is intended as a space to help showcase the digital places that Sherlockians are connecting and sharing information. The pages within this section will help to connect fans via the internet and includes things like a list of tumblrs and suggested podcasts.
The About page (Watson) gives information about the site’s history, it’s advisory board and curators, and the team at Michigan State University that maintains it.