Getting your website structure right

Having a good website structure is critical to long term website success. It's an essential part of the web design process. Here's how to get it right.
Building blocks. Get your website structure right.

There are innumerable things a website needs to get right these days to ensure that it has the maximum possible impact.

Exceptional design, a website conversion strategy, a great experience on desktop and mobile devices…(this list goes on).

All of these things are undoubtedly important, but there is one thing that no website can be without if it is to reach the level you are hoping for; structure.

All the rest of it matters, for sure. However, it is the website structure that allows the rest to shine.

If you plan everything out, and hang it off a structure that works, then everything else you do can have the maximum possible impact.

Your website will receive more traffic, people will stay longer on it, and use more of the site if the structure allows them to make the most of it. 

Below, we look at the various aspects of website building that you need to address in order to ensure that your website is structurally sound, giving it lower bounce rates, higher conversion and more longevity in the search rankings.

1. Establish your website goals

Establishing website goals while planning website structure

First things first, you need to have a clear idea of what the aim of your website is going to be.

A site can’t really ever be successful unless you’ve defined what “success” is.

What is the purpose of your site?

For some people the answer here will be to market a product, while for others it may be to convert sales.

In other cases, the purpose of the site might be purely informational, while there are also sites out there that aim to persuade people to sign up for something, potentially sharing their information as they do so.

Whatever your intentions are regarding the site, this is your first priority in ensuring that the website structure is as it needs to be.

Define what the goal of this site is, ideally in a way that can be summed up in a single sentence. That might be “to close [x many] sales in three months”, or “to add 20,000 people to my mailing list”.

Having this clearly-defined goal will act as a guiding principle in creating a site that can deliver. The important thing in achieving your end goal is always going to be clarity of purpose.

2. Plan user journeys

User journey planning

One of the great buzzwords of the last decade has been “journey”.

From aspiring musicians looking to make it big on a talent show, to sports professionals who have arisen from obscurity to become great champions, everyone has a journey to make.

In business, too, the idea of a journey has become important currency; in the case of your website, the most important journey is the one that you want the user to make from the moment they land on your website.

Users of your website will arrive at the home page with a specific intention in mind. That might be “to buy a hat”; it might be “to find out more about becoming an estate agent”; in fact, there are many possibilities.

What is important is how you get them from the home page to the point where their intention has been satisfied completely.

It sometimes helps to think of this process as being like a flow chart.

At each staging point along the way, you want them to make a decision that gets them closer to completing the journey with you.

If you can define the user’s intention as “buying [something]”, then their journey might look something like:

  • Find a website that sells the product I want
  • Find the product on that website
  • Add the product to my cart/trolley
  • Pay for the product and complete the order
  • Receive notification that the order has been processed

Your job, then, as someone planning the website, is to ensure that the user has the journey they are expecting.

You need them to find your website, so you must make sure you are attracting traffic.

Then you need to make sure the product is easy to find; is the site easily searchable?; is everything accurately categorised?

Once the user has found the product, it should be easy to find the option to add it to their basket, and this should move smoothly to the option to pay.

Finally, the site should capture their information so that a receipt can be sent, and then the product dispatched.

The process may be simpler, or more complicated, than the above, but this should serve as an example of how you ensure the user journey is straightforward and effective.

If you achieve this, then the user will remember your site the next time they need a product you carry. A positive user journey doesn’t just end in a sale, it leaves the customer with a positive feeling about your service.

3. Establish and position calls to action

Strong calls to action are essential

Any website with a goal in mind will have a focus on the “call to action”, or indeed “calls to action”.

Simply put, you will want users to carry out certain steps while on the site, and can guide them towards these actions.

If you have planned out their user journey correctly, then the calls to action should be self-evident.

So taking the above example of a user who is buying a product, your calls to action should persuade a customer to:

  • Add the item to their cart
  • Pay for it
  • Give their delivery details and contact information

It is vitally important in this context to ensure that these calls to action are prominently displayed on the page.

If a user has to spend more time than they expect searching for their next step, it makes them much more likely to bounce off elsewhere.

4. Create a simple website sitemap

website site map

Whatever the purpose of your website is, it should be simple for your users to navigate.

The idea of a sitemap is to categorise each page on your site and organise them in a way that makes sense.

Ideally, whatever page the user is on, it should take no more than a few clicks for them to get to any other page on the site.

If you have created a sensible site map, this will be much easier for them to do.

The principles of creating the perfect site map are as follows:

  • Establish a hierarchy: Start with the home page, then decide what comes after
  • Decide on your categories: No fewer than two, no more than seven
  • If it appears you have more than seven categories, redefine the categories and think about creating more subcategories.

Categorising the pages on your site properly will stop the drop-down menus from becoming too busy and overloading the user with information.

Creating an effective site map is also essential for search engine crawling purposes.

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5. Wireframe the website

You will, at some stage, need to have an idea of how the layout of your site will look.

What will be found where, how much white space will you have, where will the menus sit and more besides.

This necessitates a process called wireframing, where the physical layout of your site is displayed as something resembling a blueprint.

Done right, this allows you to:

  • Conceptualise what the finished product will look like
  • Give you an idea of where each element will best fit
  • Make sure your idea of the website can actually work
  • Identify where there is room for improvements and additions

6. Visual front end development

Mock up of website front end. XD project capture.

Once you have a skeleton – which is what the wireframe is – it’s time to put some flesh on those bones. That’s where a front-end visualisation comes in.

This part of the process will allow you to see how your company brand will work with the site structure. 

Here at Creative Tweed we use the visual prototyping tool, Adobe XD to produce a fully artworked up

7. Pass the site over to the developers

pass website to developers to be coded

With the design features sorted, it’s then a matter of passing the site to the developers, who will put the overall vision into a finished product.

They will focus primarily on coding the website so that it complies with regulations and will be optimised for search engine crawlers, and make sure that everything looks as it should and shows up where it should.

Note, if you’ve planned your website structure with Creative Tweed, there is no need for you to worry about passing the site over to developers as we do all of the coding for you in-house.

Developers add meta data and descriptions that allow your site to stand out in search results.

Meta tags will also ensure that your pages can be shared on social media, and will look attractive when they are. In short, the developers will work on ensuring that anyone who arrives on your site will find what they expect to find.



8. Ensure the final structure works as it should

Website testing. A team of people making sure everything is structured correctly.

The ideal website, like an onion, will have layers.

You’ve got the home page (perhaps preceded by a landing page, perhaps not), which introduces you to the site.

From there you have secondary “inner” pages which may include a blog, a store, FAQ and About Us sections.

Off these inner pages, you may have further sub-pages; all of this should be set out in such a way that the sequencing makes sense to any user of the site.

A site that is easy to navigate, will also be easy to spend time (and perhaps money) on.

 

Conclusion

Rebranding Your Business?

Don’t do anything until you’ve read our free guide. This definitive introduction will save you time and money.

A good website structure is one that has a well-constructed framework on which to place the additional factors; and when those factors are added, it will look good and be informative, intuitive and innovative.

If you can get these aspects of the website right, then you’ve got the best chance of achieving the goals you set right at the start.

If you do need a hand with anything we’ve touched on, we’d love to help.

After building hundreds we know what works, and more importantly, what doesn’t.

Contact us today for a no obligation strategy call. Even if we both decide it isn’t a good fit, we guarantee you will get great value from the session.

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