This article details the information architecture of a standard AgSci Plone site. It describes the purpose of each major area, and presents the standards for that area.


The standard Plone homepage has five main areas:

  • Top Navigation
  • Left Navigation
  • News
  • Spotlight
  • Upcoming Events

Top Navigation

The top navigation usually contains the audiences for the site, with the most important audiences first, and the less important audiences last. If the "audience" architecture doesn't work for a site, the top navigation can be omitted or the standard components (News, Events, About, Contact) can be moved to the top. This should only happen if the site lends itself to a split between the standard components and another type of information, such as various topic areas.

Left Navigation

The left navigation contains the main navigation for a section of the site. In the case of department homepages, this column shows the information "about" a department. These items should be in a logical order, and when possible the Google Analytics traffic data should influence the order. The most popular items should be towards the top, and the least popular below. The "Contact Us" should be at the bottom. The "About Us" should be near the bottom as well, since people are usually looking for specific information, not a general overview.


Buttons in the left column can be created if there are external destinations (e.g. the Creamery on the Food Science site) or extremely important internal destinations that are a few levels deep. There should be no more than three buttons in the left column. These buttons can have an "external" or an "internal" color to separate audiences.

Social Media Icons

Social media icons (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Flickr, etc.) can be displayed beneath the buttons. These should link to an actively updated resource that's associated with the site.


The news feed from the site's "News" folder is shown in the center column. It is sorted by the publishing date, with the most recent news item first. There are three news items show by default, but five can be shown if there is enough content on the right column to balance it, and if the news is updated frequently.


The Spotlight section can be used to highlight important information that is not a Plone news item or event, and should contain no more than five items. These items are sorted alphabetically by title.

We occasionally have a request to sort these items in an arbitrary order. To the content provider, this order makes sense because they're familiar with the content, including what they recently added, and what they think is important. However the site visitor sees no logical order because they're not familiar with the content provider's motives, and there's no cue (e.g. a date) associated with the items.

Upcoming Events

The Upcoming Events shows the upcoming events from the "Events" folder. These are sorted by the start date of the event, with the event with the closest start date first. After the event ends, it will fall off the list. There are three events by default, but this can be expanded to five if there are enough events to warrant it, and if it can balance the news in the center column.