Design · July 2022 · 8 MIN READ
The connection between website structure and final website
Our world has changed so much in recent years, thanks to the internet and the ubiquitous access it provides to information. Leveraging this technology to help deliver business and revenue is based on creating the best user experience (UX) and the ideal user interface (UI), as with all sales and marketing tools.
In order to achieve these goals, one of the most important elements of a website is its structure, so let’s look at what that is and why it’s vital to the success of that website.
The structure of a website is its architecture and outlines how all of the content and pages are organized, how they relate to each other, as well as how they are received.
The way in which a website is set up determines how easy it is for visitors to achieve their objective; getting to the info, they want as quickly as possible. This is especially important when your website contains a lot of content and/or pages.
It directly affects the success of your public-facing collateral in any functional media, that’s why it’s critical for the structure to be well organized. In order to achieve this, it’s essential to map out all of the elements, including all of the categories and pages and how they will deliver the content.
It’s all about how everything functions, how it’s tied together, and making sure the order or hierarchy is properly constructed to respond to the user’s actions effectively.
A well-structured website that is easy to navigate not only results in better responses, it increases your business because you’ve also increased your exposure by improving your ranking (SEO) in search engines.
In fact, from our extensive experience, the success of your website’s design actually relies, to some extent, on its structure. While the designer’s mandate is to create the best user experience, this is heavily reliant on how easy it is for that visitor to find what they’re looking for, which brings us back to how it’s organized and accessed.
A properly organized site means visitors can accomplish their objective (and more) with little or no hand holding.
Website structures – which are best?
Different types of websites require different structures to make them successful.
Generally speaking, there are four (4) types of site structures that build an effective website:
- Hierarchical/tree website structure – If there is a lot of information, it’s usually best to organize it around a home page that links to other pages and most users find this format very easy to understand. This structure is also useful for encouraging a very disciplined approach to your content since it presents itself more effectively when that is the case.
- Linear/sequential website structure – This most popular and easiest organizational structure uses sequential ordering of the material, which can be from generic to specific, alphabetical, or chronological. If the user expects to proceed through a logical series of content, then this provides the best format.
- Webbed/network website structure – Minimally structured to promote quick access with minimum effort, commonly used for e-commerce, and utilizes comprehensive internal links so that the user can navigate their own direction.
- Database website structure – This structure uses a bottom-up approach that allows users to orchestrate their own experience based on search tools (e.g., Google).
Deploying the right type of website structure is another key element when it comes to its information architecture, which we’ll talk about shortly.
The Importance of Content Structure
It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it. Well, yes and no. The content is important, but how it’s structured will determine whether or not it is accessed, consumed, and acted upon. Yes, content should always be simple and easy to read. It also needs to be logically organized in terms of its hierarchy with related content combined and important information brought to the fore.
It's important not to overwhelm the user with too much information but to rather have it organized in such a way that they are presented with the most relevant high-level data first so that it encourages further navigation into more detailed content that supports the original inquiry. A well-considered and planned structure will make that process very easy and ensure that the user is guided purposefully to achieve their goal, as well as realize the fundamental objectives of the website.
Structures are built based on a wide variety of original ideas that incorporate a client’s specific business goal(s). The progression includes the concept of telling a story that guides the user through the content, again based on a high-level view first, with deeper dives depending on the interest.
The story always has an introduction, an evolution/progression or development, and an ending, so the structure has to order the messaging appropriate to this approach in order to be effective.
Tools and methodologies, like AIDCA (Attention, Interest, Desire, Conviction, Action), for example,
- Using an attention-getting opening or headline
- Providing a description of the product or service to generate interest
- Presenting a desirable offer
- Demonstrating conviction with a guarantee or reassurance
- Generating sales with the appropriate call to action
can more easily be incorporated into a structure that is well thought out. In order to address these effectively, we fundamentally also need to ask questions like “What problem is the user trying to solve? What action are they looking to generate?” This in turn should activate emotions and feelings that result in better responses and higher conversion rates.
To accomplish this, a global blueprint is critical and forms the backbone of the entire process commonly referred to as the Information Architecture.
What is Information Architecture (IA)?
Just as a house or a commercial high rise relies on a complete and intuitive design template that maps out all of the elements for a successful structure, IA clearly outlines how the digital end product will include all of the features and builds, as well as how they behave and interact with each other.
Once a framework has been created, it will clearly demonstrate how it works and how all the pieces come together to present the user with an enjoyable experience.
The web design that evolves from this practice also ensures that the user is presented with a clear picture of where the content they are looking for is located and how they can use it, based on where it’s been positioned and the format it is in. So its original blueprint for how it will function becomes the foundation for a great design.
There are many types of information architecture, depending on what is most important; in all cases it is key to the user’s experience (UX) and your goal to have them take appropriate action.
Aside from what we’ve already stated about its relevance to UX and business goals, since it’s a blueprint that includes everything from content, navigation, function and flow, it should provide a holistic view of the whole digital product and how it works.
Why is IA Important?
It can’t be stressed enough about how vital it is to provide logical, consistent organization and display of information, because it allows users to continue from what is familiar to what may not be, and thereby enable their journey to the behaviours that will trigger the desired action.
Building hubs with key, but more general information, for example, will help to guide the user into more detailed content that is nested within this structure. This way it’s easier for users to scan specific pages initially, find the information they’re looking for and then make it easy for them to get to more details if they’re interested.
Another important factor here is that IA has to align with and respond to the visitor’s requirements in the physical sense, with predictable ways and means of locating the information they are looking for. If the user can’t navigate in a way that they customarily expect, the journey probably won’t last very long.
This foundation makes it much easier to add and update features, get intel on when products need to change and how users behavior should dictate future improvements.
A well-constructed website allows designers to be creative and gives them the format and flexibility they need to incorporate changes or enhancements easily and quickly.
Just as the client’s business goals are important, so too are the needs and objectives of the user. Understanding what actions users take on the website informs the proper planning for the distribution of the content, as well as the appropriate paths they should take. Since there are many different types of users with different needs, so too should the structure facilitate a wide variety of navigation courses, as well as provide the opportunity to just explore various parts of the website.
If the site structure is well organized to enable this, then designers can also more easily consider and plan, so that they can achieve the range and diversity of different users’ goals.
Website structures a all about how the pages are organized based on the content to promote the best user experience with the least amount of navigation. It’s a grouping or compilation of user interface elements and patterns to make sure that visitors find what they want.
Information architecture is about how the information is arranged and built for the entire site. It is the underlying blueprint for all of the content and how the site will function.
Both serve to support the user as the primary focus and to adapt to changing behaviors in order to maximize the potential of what the website and its website page structure can deliver.
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