So, you’re interested in website architecture but don’t know where to start. You’ve come to the right place! This article will tell you what website architecture is, why it’s important, how to layout a website, and how to optimize it for SEO. Sounds like a lot? It’s actually much simpler than it would seem!
What is Website Architecture?
To put it simply, website architecture is the way in which your website is structured. It is the essential planning that goes into building a website that helps your users easily navigate and find information on your website. Website architecture encompasses the user interface, user experience, and information architecture of your site.
Website architecture is like building a skyscraper. You must design a strong foundation to build upon, and build up to engaging content that will keep users active on your site and eventually convert.
How can Website Architecture Affect Results?
Website architecture is imperative to your online success because it directly impacts the user experience. When structured properly, it improves how engaged users are, how easy it is to navigate your website, and, most importantly, conversions!
Think about a website that you’ve recently visited where you became frustrated navigating the site. You might have encountered way too many links on one page, making you unsure of where to go next. The valuable content might have been buried under useless content or images, making you scroll down too far. Website architecture streamlines these issues and eases any potential frustration from trying to navigate a website.
This indirectly affects search engine results, as well. When users spend more time on your webpages, engaging in on-page actions, and sharing your content on social media, search engines will recognize your site as a high-quality site and rank you higher on their results pages!
Lastly, website architecture also provides positive results for you personally. It will help improve your development process, reduce the number of revisions needed, and keep your ongoing upkeep running efficiently.
Classic Website Layout
The basic layout of a website starts with the homepage. This is the most important page on your site – where you make the first impression. Functionally, it is your index page from which your main sections branch off. Practically, it should be straightforward and generalized, giving your users an overview of what you do while pointing them in the right direction for their next step.
The next layer of webpages is your main sections. Functionally, these pages index all of your other pages into broad categories, like a “Services” page. Practically, these pages should guide the user to a more specific topic related to your website. Users should have a general understanding of what to expect within the main section, i.e. a “Services” page should include all the services you offer.
The final layer of webpages is your subsections or content pages. Functionally, these pages provide specific information on each individual aspect of your website. Practically, this is the information the user is looking for! These could be anything from individual product pages to blog posts – anything which answers a user’s question or compels them to convert.
To develop your own website architecture, you’ll go through 3 phases of design:
Phase 1: Laying the Foundation
The first step you’ll want to take is to define the purpose of your website. Are you an online store looking to generate more sales? Or perhaps you are a local business, trying to direct traffic to your physical location. Whatever your purpose, you should define it from the start.
During this phase, you’ll also need to organize the technical makeup of your site. Your web developers will help you with this. It involves setting up your server, the CMS platform you’ll be using, and more!
Lastly, you’ll need to develop a few page skeletons. Page skeletons are your basic content layouts that all your pages will build off of. They should include your main navigation bar, header, and footer, which all pages will use.
Phase 2: Framework
The framework for your website starts by thinking of your links and landing pages. Think about how you would like your users to arrive on the site and the ideal path for them to take. Landing pages are the first page a user sees when they visit your site. It is not always the homepage. Each landing page should satisfy specific user intent and eventually lead to a conversion. You’ll need to make sure that you are linking to a conversion page through a path that seems natural for a user.
You’ll also think about interactivity during this phase. Interactivity involves ways in which your users can engage in activity other than simply clicking a link. Some common examples include searching in a search bar, playing a video, or posting a blog comment. You’ll want to integrate these ideas within the site structure from the start.
Lastly, you will work to create a consistent web design for your website. This includes a consistent font, colors, and imagery used for every single element on your site. Having a consistent design from the start ensures that all pages are familiar to the user, keeping them on-site.
Phase 3: Furnishing and Decorating
The final phase is where you finally create your content. You’ll want to create content that adds meaningful value to the user. Blog pages, product pages, and any other page must contain content for users, not for search engines. Search engines have become smart enough to distinguish between content made for users and made for robots. Write how you would speak. Use smaller paragraphs. Provide meaningful solutions.
An important note to keep in mind when planning your content is to make content that is sharable. You’ll want users to share your website with friends and you’ll be able to include it in your own marketing campaigns as well!
Think of some ways to incorporate multimedia on your site as well! Content with videos or images is far more likely to be shared than content with only words.
So, you’ve created your website structure and are ready for your users to read your amazing content. How will you guide them through your website? You’ll need to optimize your navigation!
It is important to offer several navigation options to users, the first of which are call-to-actions and action wording within the text of your content. Make these links easy to understand, but also natural in the text.
Another way to incorporate navigation is with breadcrumbs. Breadcrumbs are a set of links that show the pathway from the homepage to the page the user is on. This is important if the user wants to navigate back to a more generalized page than the one he/she is on. An example would look like: Home > Services > Web Design
Yet another way to navigate a site is through a sitemap. This page is typically linked to in your footer, which includes all of your pages in hierarchical order. This ensures that a user can find any page on your site in just 2 clicks.
The final and most crucial place for navigation is your navigation bar. The navigation bar should be included on every page’s header and easily link to your main categories.
When building out your navigation on each page, keep in mind the number of choices you have available to your user. You wouldn’t want to bombard the user with too many options to choose from. Keep it simple and directed towards a clear goal for each page.
Ready to Start?
Are you ready to create your own website? Or looking to restructure your existing site? Reach out to our talented web development team to create your website architecture today!