Information architectures and accompanying sitemaps often illustrate page relations with single channels linking them. These architectures are sub-optimal because they do not take advantage of the principle of multiple varied access points to key destinations which can increase the traffic flow to said goals.
Providing multiple and varied pathways to key destinations is a fundamental tenant of both urban planning and building architecture, and thinking of its application in those fields can shed light on this principle’s vast potential in website architecture.
Let’s consider how this notion of multiple access points (MAP) applies to urban planning. Take any large city and you will find that there are many different kinds of paths from point A to point B. Going from point A to point B one may take a regular city street, an avenue, a boulevard, a thoroughfare, a highway, etc.
Links are obviously not quite the same as physical roadways – there is no traffic for example – but there are many parallels. Like different kinds of roadways there are different kinds of links. If we think of each mechanism as bringing individuals from one point to the next, we can ascribe distinct levels of proficiency with which different kinds accomplish this. For example, it is much easier for individuals to travel long distances via one highway (not considering traffic) than multiple connecting city streets. Likewise, it is easier for users to use highly visible and intuitive links (perhaps styled like buttons) than to follow a series of innocuous and confusing links.
In addition, it is a great mistake that all users will start at the same point in their quest to get to point B. With more internet users employing search engines to find their destinations, it is no longer safe to assume that visitors to a website start at the homepage. Many web sites experience significant traffic entering through pages other than the homepage.
Therefore, those pages and areas within each web site that have special strategic significance – like registration pages – should have multiple entry points from many pages within the site. Some of the pathways leading to such strategically important pages should be highways rather than city streets. For example, in San Francisco one can get to downtown via Highway 80, Highway 101, and Highway 280 along with a number of larger boulevards, avenues, and regular city streets. Likewise, it is vital to ensure that users wishing to get from any point within a web site to a strategically important page can easily do so via varied multiple access points – MAP.