Intermediary Pages in a Site Hierarchy

I had a reader write in with an interesting question:

When one has multi-level navigation, do you think it crucial to have an actual page for the top-level item? For instance, About > Company, Founder, History.

There isn't really anything worth putting on the About page that wouldn't be on the three sub-pages. In the nav, should About just redirect to Company? Should there not be a Company page and its content be moved to About?

Any best practices you've found over the years?

I'm picturing this kind of thing:

And the issue is that "About" by itself isn't particularly useful. But it is useful as a grouping for the sub pages.

I would think the "About" link should be functional no matter what. It's just a matter of what to do with it.

Just make an intermediary page

Have the parent link:

http://website.com/about/

And the subpages:

http://website.com/about/company/
http://website.com/about/founder/
http://website.com/about/history/

They said there isn't anything "worth" putting on the About page, but that's just a matter of content wrangling. You could write some new content introducing the other content there. Or show some elaborate breadcrumbs encouraging them to go deeper. Or show some images or snippets from the sub pages. I'm sure you can think of something.

Redirect the intermediary page

Have:

http://website.com/about/

Redirect to:

http://website.com/about/company/

That way the URL stays nice and hierarchical and gives you the opportunity to create an About page alone in the future.

It might feel a little unexpected though, so it might be nice to offer some kind of sideways navigation. Seems like the kind of thing that could be tabbed:

Skip the hierarchy

If there is really no point to having a parent page, maybe the URL's should be clear that there isn't one.

http://website.com/about-company/
http://website.com/about-founder/
http://website.com/about-history/

And then use the redirect for the top-level navigation option.

Put them all on one page

Is there any value in separating them? You could go with a tabs design pattern with all on-page content. Or just make a long page, the web can handle it =).

The URL's could use hashes to go to the relevant place (or tab):

http://website.com/about/#company
http://website.com/about/#founder
http://website.com/about/#history

Best Practices

I'm not sure any one of these is any better than the other. I think the best practices here come in the form of don'ts:

  • Don't do it one way then change it to another next month. Cool URL's don't change.
  • Don't make your dropdown 100% reliant on JavaScript.
  • Don't make the About link not-actually-a-link just because you don't have this figure out yet. Link it to something or redirect it.

Have you all gone through this kind of thing before?