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I learnt a new word today thanks to the excellent newsletter from the Nielsen Norman Group.  Polyhierarchies are the technical term for when content logically belongs in more than one hierarchy on your site. We identified this issue many years ago and our solution for SiteCM is Link-To Pages.

Polyhierarchies are important because when planning your site you need to figure out where everything belongs.  This information architecture helps determine how your navigation is built, and on larger sites may even indicate who is responsible for it.  Your IA will likely be built on mental models of your users and it is frequently presented as a tree view with branches. Unfortunately not everyone is going to come to your site using the same mental model and will be looking on the wrong branch for the important content you put so much effort into. A polyhierarchy is one where a branch can have multiple parents making it more flexible for matching multiple mental models.  If you have a rigid IA then a portion of your users are going to have a hard time figuring out where to find the information they need. 

With our experience in e-commerce we asked ourselves if a product (which is a branch) can appear in multiple departments (parents) why couldn't we have content that worked the same way?

With Link-To pages a SiteCM user can create a master copy of the content in one hierarchy or menu and create a Link-To page in another menu that uses the same content.  This makes your site much easier to navigate for a larger number of users.  It also makes it easier to keep up to date because it eliminates multiple copies of the same content that usually (despite your best efforts) will end up being different and creating confusion.

Link-To pages are also great for things like simplified footer menus that link to the same content that appears elsewhere.  They make sure that the link is where you need it when you need it.

We have multiple types of Link-To pages depending on how you would like to use them: 

  • You can show the content at a new url which maintains breadcrumbs so your user isn't left scratching their head wondering how they got there. 
  • You can take the user to the master copy of the page which is most common for footer menus and similar wayfinding aides.

And of course because it is SiteCM it is search engine friendly.  You can specify the canonical version and prevent duplicate versions from being added to your Google XML Sitemap.

Nielsen Norman Group recommends using polyhierarchies with caution and it can get confusing for users if you have your content in too many places.  One of the biggest issues is the cognitive load of your visitors processing massive navigation structures if you have twice as many menu items as you have pages.  Just because you can, doesn't mean you should!  

If you would like to read the original article, visit

Want to learn more about SiteCM and Link-To pages?  Drop us a line.




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