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Okay, how do I figure out the organization of my site? 

First of all, a picture of how it all works together will help you understand it better.

  • Think of the Rootsweb server as a virtual file cabinet
  • Each community (directory) is a virtual file drawer (genealogy_html, family_html, history_html, etc)
  • In each file drawer, you can put both loose papers and file folders filled with papers (pages)
  • Sometimes you might even want to put folders inside folders, which are called sub-folders.

RootsWeb File Cabinet

Now, on to putting together the plan for your place on the web.

First of all, figure out the purpose of your site.  Here's a good article to make you think through why you want to put a website together and who is your intended audience - How to Design a Genealogy Web Site.

Next figure out what kinds of things you want to put on your website - not just your original few pages, but the big dream of what you hope to include over time.  Then figure out the most logical way to sort out that information and put groups of things inside folders. 

Some people suggest that you design your website like a business organization chart:

However, I found that the easiest way to do a design diagram was to do it like an outline (You remember, those things your teachers made you do in school!)  Whether you use an outline or organization chart, the same process applies.

You need to set up an outline or chart using all the folders and sub-folders you think you'll need.  The organization of your website needs to follow the logic and organization skills that are comfortable to you.  However, as an example, let's go through the process I used.

  1. Of course, the primary thing I wanted to put out there was my genealogy, so I knew I would be putting things into the genealogy_html community.  At some point, I also wanted to put some into a few of the other communities, but for now I concentrated on the genealogy community and what I wanted to post there.
    • I knew that I had a lot of information about each family line, so I knew I'd want a folder for each surname. 
    • I also wanted to put photos of both family and tombstones, so I created folders called graves and photos. 
    • Lastly, I decided I wanted to put a few genealogical charts, so another folder was born.
  2. Then I started thinking in detail about what I wanted to put in each folder.  As I did so, I realized that in certain folders and sub-folders, I wanted even more sub-folders. 

    When I thought about it, I decided to put all the surnames as sub-folders under a folder called families.  I could have just as easily put each in a separate folder at the upper level, but then would have had a lot of high-level folders to "clutter" my view of the high level as I added family after family.  I'm glad I did, because I'm now at about 21 families and still have more I want to put in there.  That many folders on my upper level would have gotten very "messy" to manage. 

    Also, I realized the surname sub-folders needed sub-sub-folders.  My guideline was that anything I thought would eventually have 10 pages or more of related material would be put into sub-folders.  (Of course, your criteria could be different, but I hate to see a bunch of information with no organization.)  Here's an example of part of my original outline.

  3. The last step I thought about was the actual pages I was going to be putting together and what would logically link together.  I found that there were some things that weren't exactly able to be outlined, but that I'd need to remember.  I decided to also make notes of those thoughts to prepare for the creation of my page.  A couple things I realized were
  • Some items needed to be referenced from more than one page.  For instance, with my tombstone photos, I needed to link them from both the cemetery page as well as the surname page - or two surname pages if the tombstone was for both the husband and wife..
  • Some photos needed to be listed on two surname pages - one for the husband's name and one for the wife's.
  1. After thinking through all of that, I felt ready to proceed.  As you can see in the screenshot below of my website as it appears on my computer, from my simple draft outline came a much larger website as I added more surnames and other information.  However, my original thought process created a workable outline that could be expanded on without having to re-organize my whole web site.

Explorer screenshot

Over time, your basic chart or outline can stand you in good stead.  Taking a little extra time to plan ahead will make it easier as you begin developing your website and then expanding on it in the future - without having to re-organize each time you want to add something more.

And your basic outline can become the basis for your site map. 

Links to other sites and information on planning the design of your website:




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This page was last updated on Saturday, May 29, 2010.

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