The Three Pages That Every Site Should Have

By Kyle James - Tue, Feb 3, 2009

General, Sitemap, Web development

The Three Pages That Every Site Should Have

I’ve studied many many websites looking for design, navigation, and architectural ideas and it seems to me that there are three universal pages that ever single site should include.  It doesn’t matter what type of site or industry the site represents these three simple pages seem to be universal in both importance and required.  Every site should include an About, Contact, and Sitemap page.

The About Page

If I’m visiting a site for the first time and I’m really not sure what the company does or purpose of the site I’m looking for an About or an About Us page right away.  This page should tell the user what your site is about and information about your company.  Where your company located is also important.  People can associate with a physical location because although your site might totally live in the world wide web we know that you are maintaining it from somewhere even if that is your parents basement.

The About page doesn’t need to be overly extensive, but basic information is required.  For me I also want to be able to find actual people that work at your company instead of soemthing like “we have years of experience in X” or “we have been around for Y years”.  Give me the name of a president, your chief officers or something so that I can associate this brand with actual physical people.  This page is also the perfect location for the background or history of your brand.

The Contact Page

The Contact page is the next page that I want to easily locate.  If I’m not able to contact someone about a site it really makes a site look fishy in my opinion.  Provide a mailing address and a contact number for more traditional individuals.  Email addresses are also nice, but what is becoming more of the norm, and for good reason in my opinion, is a contact form.  For a college this would be the form for prospective students to request information or alumni to reconnect.  For a business well this is your lead intelligence.  These are the visitors that you REALLY care about and the ones that will potentially bring in the revenue.  AKA this is really the most important page on your site.  Making your visitor feel comfortable that they can actually contact you should they need something is important.

The Sitemap Page

Although most every site should be utilizing a sitemap.xml file and sending it to the search engines this isn’t the same as an actual web page that your users can visit and associate themselves with your site layout.  This is important for usability and accessibility, but it can also help you manage your site architecture.  Also although a search bot has your sitemap.xml it doesn’t hurt to have a sitemap page to also make sure that they are crawling all of your content.

Other Really Important Pages

There are some other really important pages that you probably want to consider.  It’s not always necessary but a privacy policy isn’t a bad idea.  If you want to be a smarty pants about it of course you are going to have a homepage.  For a college or university a quick facts page probably is a pretty good idea.

So hopefully you have these basic, fundamental required pages on your site?  If not what are you waiting for.  As always remember it’s always about your visitors so make their experience as great and comforting as possible.  If you are looking for some good examples just start looking on your favorite sites that you visit daily.  Wanting a specifically Higher Education example there are thousands listed on eduStyle so jump over there and surf around.

Oh one final note. Although you see these pages called all sorts of things on sites (sitemap is commonly called a directory for example) remember that your audience is what is most important so use a descriptive term that they will understand.

Photo Credit: “Turn the Page” by jacqueline-w

This post was written by:

Kyle James

Kyle James - who has written 227 posts on .eduGuru

Kyle is currently the Customer in Residence at HubSpot, a Co-Founder at nuCloud and  formerly the webmaster at Wofford College. Kyle is an active contributor in the social media spectrum. Although his background is technical, he claims to know a thing or two about marketing, but mostly that revolves around SEO, analytics, blogging, and social media. He has spoken at multiple national conferences and done countless webinars on topics ranging from e-mail marketing to social media and Web analytics. He's definitely a fairly nice guy.

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19 Responses to “The Three Pages That Every Site Should Have”

  1. Rachel Reuben Says:

    Hmm. I’m not sure I agree with the “sitemap” as a must have. It feels very late 1990′s to me. I see the SEO advantage, but it’s a tremendous amount of work to keep up with, unless you use a magical tool (and have time to learn it, and update it, and it actually works). Aside from that one advantage, I don’t think you should have to “show” or “explain” your information architecture. It should be clear enough that users can easily tell where they are, where they’re going, where they came from, etc. without having to spend time on a separate page that outlines how the site is laid out. Also, there should be tons of duplication - there should never be just one way to find a page/information, so site maps for most university sites would be ginormous and never-ending.

    I’m having a brain freeze at the moment, but I had thought of another “must have” page, but it’s totally escaped me now. When it comes back to me, I know where to find you. :)

    Reply

    • Kyle James (author) Says:

      So let me ask you this Rachel… you don’t keep up your site architecture? Seems like a front facing place to keep it like a sitemap would reduce confusing and help to make sure that it’s as simple as it can be without sacrificing organization and structure. Bottom line if your doing information architecture then you have a sitemap… if you have a sitemap then post it. If you don’t have any sort organization to information architecture to your site then you need to do it in such a format that it’s easy enough for an end user to figure out and it needs to be in a sitemap format. Does this sitemap have to include every single page, heck not a college website is WAY to large for that, but it needs a defined directory structure and when you create new content a place to put it with some sort of reason.

      Reply

  2. Lisa Low Says:

    hmmm, very interesting, I thought the “about” page was going the way of the dodo. But you’ve got interesting points, but I don’t think you’re doing it right if visitors can’t tell what you’re selling on the index page.

    The contact page is the most overlooked! I hate, hate, hate it when I can’t find contact info immediately.

    Reply

    • Kyle James (author) Says:

      Using the example of a college are you going to put your “about” information on the homepage or use that space to recruit students? No the about page tells information like history of the school, mission statement, fast facts, etc. With any website your homepage is kind of like your storefront, where you are selling your most important services/products and what is hot is getting promoted. If they want to find more information about you and your site there needs to be a location for that.

      Doesn’t mean that your selling point isn’t about you… it’s just not the whole story.

      Reply

  3. OtherWebGuy Says:

    I have to disagree with you, Rachel. I think that the site map is vitally important for many reasons.

    I also think your reasoning is a bit flawed. Just because something is difficult doesn’t mean we should ignore it. Breadcrumb trails can be extremely difficult to keep up with, too, but I think they are another necessary element in this day and age - especially for college and university sites.

    If your SEO has been successful, every page of your site should be indexed. Therefore, there is a potential for visitors to land on just about any page on your site. If you don’t give them some indication how to go up or down one level once they’ve landed, you’ll lose a lot of them.

    Besides, I know you guys must be using a Web content management system for your Web site. Any CMS worth its salt should be capable of generating a site map and breadcrumb trails dynamically, so it shouldn’t be any real extra work.

    Thanks for the post, Kyle. It’s good to see you still posting things over here. I agree with you about each of these “required” pages (and, am proud to say that our Web site features each). Of course, I’m always looking for ideas on how to improve our site, so I’ll be interested to see if anyone posts ideas about required pages.

    Also, thanks for the link to edustyle. I had not seen that site before. It seems to be a pretty good resource.

    Reply

  4. Todd Says:

    It’s also good to review your About page every now and then. Like when you get a cool job in Boston and are no longer the Webmaster at Wofford College. :)

    Reply

  5. editor Says:

    Proofreading is also helpful. An article, like the one above, or any content posted on a website should be carefully reviewed for grammar and spelling mistakes. Nothing says “I’m not really a writer” like not knowing the difference between your and you’re, there and their, etc.

    Further, a great design can never, IMHO, make up for bad content. For me, a website loses major creditibility when it has bad spelling and grammar.

    Reply

  6. Jess K. Says:

    I truly believe in the site map! Its a tough sell here and I’m still backing it and its nice to read the comments here for even more ammo and discussion points.

    Reply

  7. john Says:

    I don’t necessarily disagree about requiring their existence, but what about (er…) “About” and “Contact” in the navigation? Or do both of these fall under “General Info”?

    Reply

    • Kyle James (author) Says:

      John,
      Honestly I don’t care where they are in navigation, a lot of sites successfully put them in the footer, I just want to be able to get to any of those pages quickly from the homepage and ideally have them available on every page. Footer is a great place for sitemap where Contact and About are important enough to warrant in header. Of course it really depends on the type of site and the brand awareness that you have. If your CNN then you don’t have to explain yourself and Contact and About can live in the footer also, which they do.

      Reply

  8. Shawn Lindsey Says:

    Thanks for this. This is actually a very very nice blog post, because we are a web development company and we always, always, always stress the importance of the About US and the Contact Page. That is something that we require each of our clients to have.

    Nice post, because this really helps new business and people with new websites understand the importance of these pages and why they should include them on their pages and what impact it has for them.

    Reply

  9. Chicago Injury Lawyer Says:

    I feel that the SEO value of a sitemap is more than enough reason to have one. Also, from time to time, I actually use sitemaps to navigate sites. I feel about pages may not be necessary if your landing page adequately describes your products or services, however, it is a valuable page to elaborate. I completely agree with you about going to forms instead of a straight email link. Not only will the forms benefit the visitors, you can also collect valuable data about your visitors in order to best suit their needs.

    Reply

  10. Small Business Marketing Says:

    I’d agree that those 3 pages are essential. The About Page is also far too often overlooked in that it usually just contains general text rather than specific information and photos about the company which help to build your trust.

    I’d also say that most sites should have both a Privacy Policy and Terms and Conditions, especially if you’re advertising via Google AdWords as these pages are becoming increasingly critical to ensure that you receive a high quality score.

    Reply

  11. Dnepropetrovskij Intim Says:

    And of course such pages:
    1) TOP articles (in order to make your site sticky)
    2) Links (in order to make some money)

    :)

    Good stuff!

    Reply

  12. wilhb81 Says:

    I have already have the “About Page” and “Sitemap Page”, but not with the “Contact Page”. As I afraid that some readers will bombard my mailbox, by sending endless spam mails from time to time…

    Reply

  13. Andrew Czocher Says:

    http://www.ainjurylawyerblog.com/category/personal-injury-news/page/5/

    Reply

  14. Tejji Says:

    Absolutely, Sitemap is top most at that is what increases search engine visibility and bring more traffic to site. http://sitemap.tejji.com/ help create sitemap in formats like XML and HTML. Worth a try.

    Reply

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  1. What Does a Web Site Have to Have? | HTMLCenter Web Development Blog says:

    [...] of Web site development at higher education institutions, made a post a few weeks ago about the three pages that every Web site needs. He claims that every Web site (whether it’s a corporate site, a college Web site or just a [...]

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