Unfortunately, many website owners overlook archives and as the result, they don’t get the attention they deserve. Often archives are no different than other pages in the website or they can be ignored altogether. Just like other web elements, you can also use archives creatively. Whether you opt to devote an entire webpage or use abbreviated archives in the footer or sidebar, you can make them stands out.
These are a few things you should do to make your archive user-friendly and functional:
- Use space efficiently: There is no sense cramming the archive into a cramped space. If you have an extensive archive, you may need to devote the whole page to it instead of forcing it into the footer or sidebar. The opposite is true, if you have a fairly simple and small archive; it is a waste of space to use the whole page. Consider putting the archive in the footer or sidebar, you may even use drop down menu to further save space.
- Make it highly accessible: Even first-time and casual visitors should be able to find your archive easily. Put the link to the archive in an obvious location, such as the sidebar, footer and header. You should also label it clearly to let people know that it is an archive, not an off-site link. Instead of naming your archive, ‘recent articles’, ‘older blog posts’ ,’blog posts’ or others, you should simply call it “archives’ and place it prominently. You should also use intuitive archive design, for example, posts can be listed vertically based on post date. There’s no point adding an archive to your site if people can’t find it.
- Delineate it: If you decide to put the archive in your footer or sidebar, you should make it distinct from surrounding content and clearly define it. You can achieve it by using different fonts and color or add a border. People should also know where the archive begins and ends. If you devote a webpage for the archive, it is important to remove visual clutter such as sidebar and footer. If not, you should make it easy for people to distinguish archive in the webpage, so they won’t look for it at the header, sidebar and footer.
- Use categories: If you have an extensive archive, it may overwhelm people. Categories can help people to find contents they need or are interested in. Categories can still be useful on smaller archives. However, excessive categories may also confuse people more than they help. If you have a personal blog, you should use date-based archive, instead of topic-based categories. However, if your have a big archive and have diverse topics, tag-based archive can be helpful.
- Don’t show the content: Even if you devote a webpage for the archive, you shouldn’t show the full articles. This will take up too much space and make it harder to navigate the archive. You should only include a short excerpt (between one and three sentences). This keeps the archive page organized and clean, which makes skimming it a whole lot easier.
- Split it: You don’t have to organize your archive in a single list. For example, if put the archive in the sidebar, you should break it up into smaller lists, such as most recent posts, random posts, most popular posts and others. These lists can help people something relevant and interesting in the archive, which would be more difficult to achieve in a conventional archive. Depending on how you structure these lists, they can also add useful visual interests to your website. A list of featured or random posts can draw people attention and increase traffic to your older articles.
Is an archive even necessary?
Not all websites should have a dedicated archive. In many cases, category-based navigation already works well. Some sites use no archives and simply add an “Old posts” link. If your website contains plenty of timeless and evergreen contents, archive can be useful. On the other hand, personal blogs that use chronological structure may work fine without an archive unless your visitors demand it. Instead of a formal archive, consider using tag cloud or category system to help users find older posts, because both can be more helpful for those who seek for contents of specific topics. Archives can present an efficient and interesting method to find information they are explicitly searching for. Consider it carefully before deciding to include an archive in your website.