Tips on website architecture
You’re building a new website. Excellent. What is its purpose — to get sales; build brand recognition; to create a data base? Whatever it is, before you jump in feet first, you need a plan. An important part of the planning process is thinking about your website’s architecture.
As a content writer, I don’t work in isolation. My skills are combined with other professionals, like web developers, graphic designers and SEOs.
For this post, I combine my thoughts on website architecture with input from Netbyte.com, a web development company I work with. If you find this useful please share. I also welcome your comments.
What is website architecture?
Website architecture could be described as the “science of organising websites.” Good architecture enables web visitors to get to from A to B quickly and easily.
It’s not hard to cram your website with information. If the structure of your website is poor, though, your efforts will probably be wasted.
In my mind, a poorly-designed website is like a jumble sale where the products aren’t labelled. Though a jumble sale bargain hunter may persevere and sort through the mess hoping to unearth something valuable, most visitors to your website won’t. They don’t have the time.
What pages do you need?
Depending on your business, you could have any number of web pages.
Most websites have some or all of the following:
- Home — explains clearly what you do and navigates visitors to other parts of your website.
- Product/Services — describe the products or services you offer.
- Our work — examples of your work.
- Why choose us? — your unique selling points.
- Resources — case studies, white papers, e-Books, manuals and brochures, etc.
- About us — information about your company’s background and the people within it.
- Our blog — a regular blog that answers your customers’ questions.
- Contact us.
And they can be divided into three categories:
- Navigation — Home page
- Consumption — Product/Services, Our work, Why choose us?, Resources, About us and Blog pages
- Interaction — Contact us.
So, you need to think about which category a page falls into and what it needs to achieve.
For example, a visitor to your Home page could want any number of things. So, as a navigation page, Home must confirm they are on the right website and then guide them to the pages they want to visit.
Consumption pages, like Product/Services, on the other hand, will cover a specific topic and usually have a clear call to action. This is because visitors to these pages are usually “hotter” prospects; they are more likely to be interested in what you have to offer. They also need a navigational element for those visitors wishing to explore other parts of your website.
Interaction pages, like Contact, are where the visitor inputs data. You need to determine what information you require from them.
Some ideas on how to organise your website
Trying to picture just how your website will look can be tricky. However, there are tricks in the trade. Scott Wilson and Grant Newman of Netbyte.com gave me some ideas.
“We supply customers a template and ask them to fill in bullet points or even text from other similar sites as a guide,” says Grant. “You can also make a visual map by shifting pieces of paper around on a table to see how visitors will get around — this can be easier than drawing a map where you might have to rub things out.”
The surge in mobile device usage has made life easier for consumers. However, it has made designing a website’s architecture a little more challenging.
“You need to think about how people will get around using mobile devices because they navigate with their fingers instead of a mouse,” says Scott.
How often have you begun to fill out a contact form and given up because it’s too difficult or intrusive? Scott says that when designing a contact form, you need to be careful not to scare people away with too many questions.
“It can be like walking into a bricks-and-mortar store and being asked for your address and phone number before you get in,” he says. “Contact forms should only ask essential information.”
Search engine optimisation (SEO) and analysis
As a content writer, there are many techniques for supporting a site’s SEO — keyword-rich titles and good meta descriptions, for example. However, if you don’t get the technical things right, you will be up against it from the beginning. One thing you need to get right is your URLs.
“You need to be clever about your URLs — this is important from an SEO perspective and, just as importantly, a human perspective,” says Scott.
Scott says that a web page’s URL should reflect the page’s content. This makes it easier for search engines and people to understand what a web page is about.
“A good URL is also is important for knowing which page you are looking at in analytics,” he says. “With Nissan [one of Netbyte’s major customers], one of the goals we measure is how many people click through to one of their contact mechanisms.”
As the saying goes, “No man is an island.” So, apart from creating great words, which is my specialty, it’s also important to give equal consideration to the other elements required to ensure your website is successful.
What do you think? How do you design a website’s architecture? If you found this useful please share. Also, please leave your comments.