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I am putting together a site information architecture/structure and I'm not sure how to represent some content that could fit into two sections (it is relevant to two audiences who have been identified in the top level navigation).

I want to ensure that users can find it in the relevant section(s) but I don't want to confuse users. Is it good practice to repeat a portion of content in two sections? There will be other content in each section that differs to this content.

The content is relevant to the residents and home seekers sections. The content will be identical.

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Are you talking about duplicating the section content itself, or just the navigation links to that content (i.e. in a shopping site having a link to 'shoes' in the 'Footwear' menu as well as the 'Clothing' section, but all linking to the same place)? –  JonW Mar 17 at 9:52
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To be honest I'm not sure what's best. I guess one set of content but duplicate links (so that it's less to maintain). They are pages of content rather than search results if that helps. I'm not sure how the breadcrumb would work and weather this would be confusing in any way for the user (that they are in once section linking to content in another section). I hope this make sense. Thanks for your help with this. –  melj Mar 17 at 11:20
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You could make a set of new pages that simply pull in the content from the others, using a php include() or something similar. Having a new set of files should mean the breadcrumbs are displayed as you want, but you don't have to duplicate the content so future changes will be easy. –  slugmandrew Mar 17 at 12:37
    
That's great thank you very much for your help. –  melj Mar 17 at 13:13
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4 Answers 4

tl;dr: Duplicating content across a website is discouraged. It could be reflective of content-strategy problem, a navigation organization problem, or an audience identification problem.


Now onto why...

Minimize similar content: If you have many pages that are similar, consider expanding each page or consolidating the pages into one. For instance, if you have a travel site with separate pages for two cities, but the same information on both pages, you could either merge the pages into one page about both cities or you could expand each page to contain unique content about each city.

While duplicate information can affect your search result ranking, a bigger reason, IMO, to not dupe content is that it confuses users. Too many websites navigation systems organize around their internal organization structure versus how their users approach their company. Navigation systems should reflect the user's mental model—not the organization's.

Ask yourself a few questions when you find yourself duplicating content:

  • Is my content tailored to my audience? You state that this content is for two different audiences. Different audiences mean different approaches, different goals, different needs. Your content should address these different items. A business has different concerns than a customer. A small business' concerns are different from an enterprise business. Identify your audience's goals and needs and tailor your content to address them.
  • Is my navigation structure confusing? If your duplicating content, maybe the problem is your navigation structure. Do your website visitors naturally identify themselves with an audience first or do they look for the content they want and then the specific audience information? You may need to re-think your navigation organization if you're finding yourself duplicating content. Ideally you wouldn't duplicate any content. If your content could apply to any audience, consider serving it on a single page. If needed, provide links appropriately off that page for each audience that dives deeper into questions and topics they would want addressed.
  • Are my audiences distinct enough? If your content could apply to either audience, then either your audiences aren't different enough (they share a lot of the same goals and needs) or your copy is written too broadly and isn't solving either audience's specific goals and needs. How do you know if your audiences are too similar? Are their goals, needs, and approaches largely the same? If so, then the audience distinction you have is probably more of an organizational distinction than a natural one. If there are difference though, highlight those differences. Make your navigation structure (and content) reflective of these differences so your audiences know which content best applies to them. If you can't write distinct copy for each audience, how can the user appropriately identify themselves?
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From my point of view, this is how i see it. It all depends upon the client, if they want the user to focus on one particular content even if it goes for duplication.

For example, When I worked with one of my client, they want their news to be present on the right side area on 2 different pages. I suggested we show a gist of contents from News in the other primary navigation content, so thereby i am not duplicating the content in 2 areas, I am just informing the user there is a news area and by clicking the right side content you can go back to the main news area. By this i am making the user learn the navigation of the website.

I would not encourage for duplication of the exact same content from the main navigation content area, but you can show a gist of information or link in another area and by doing so when the user clicks on the area it will come back to the place where the user wants to see the contents.

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I would say that it depends. I know of an e-commerce site that does this on it's home and category pages, which contain both a horizontal and vertical category menu.

The horizontal menu uses drop down menus that show it's subcategories while the vertical menus show a limited number of "popular" categories.

svetbot.cz - horizontal and vertical menu combined

The website can be found at svetbot.cz - try going through it and see if it works for you, that may end up being your answer :)

PS: Have you thought about using a top sticky menu? I was looking into a similar issue and discovered that a top sticky menu may solve the issue as relevant information is one click away (if the menu is intelligently designed).

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Hi, Thanks for your input. It's a little different to the scenario you have shown above. Whilst both sections will be visible in the top navigation, when a section is active only one section navigation will be visible down the left hand side. Elements of the left hand navigation will be duplicated in each section. Slugmandrew had a good idea to have pull the content from the first set into the second set so that it doesn't have to be maintained in two places. –  melj Mar 17 at 15:32
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Given that a user has pre-selected what kind of person they are (resident or home seeker), I think duplicating is the way to go. A single user will be unlikely to browse to the other side of the site, so the duplication has no material effect on them.

I think this is an Occam's IA situation — coming up with a different IA just for this case overly complicated the issue. Keep it simple. Duplicate.

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