Nowadays, how your brand or business appears online is extremely important. When you make your website, it's crucial to focus on creating a meaningful user experience. This involves paying attention to hidden aspects like the structure of your website. While a well-designed structure may not be noticed by visitors, a poorly designed one will catch their attention and create a negative impression.
In this article, we will define what a website structure is, explain how to build it with a focus on user experience design and discuss the most commonly used models and templates in website design today.
What is a website structure?
The term "website structure" refers to how your website's pages are organized and arranged to create a desired user experience. It involves connecting all the pages using menus, links, and content, forming a navigational system.
In addition to the site's information architecture, the website structure plays a crucial role in the user's journey. It helps you, as the creator, plan the layout and content of your site and decide where each element should be placed. This is especially important when designing websites with multiple pages. By paying careful attention to the structure early on, you can avoid unexpected issues later.
What elements are in a website structure?
Creating a website structure guarantees that visitors can easily navigate through your website and find information in a logical order. The structure should encompass all the web pages on your site and include categories to organize them. It should also allow visitors to move seamlessly from one element to another.
To make sure the most important information is easily accessible, your site's structure should prioritize it first. At the same time, it should encourage visitors to explore other elements by including:
Categories and sub-categories
A linking system
Categories and subcategories
Organizing your website is important for making it easy for people to find what they're looking for. Categories help with this by grouping similar content. If you have a large website with many categories, it's a good idea to further divide the content into sub-categories. For example, if you sell clothes online, your website's main page would have links to different shopping categories like shoes, outerwear, pants, or accessories. Each of these categories would then have more specific sub-categories, like sandals under shoes or fleeces under outerwear.
The way your website is organized helps visitors find what they're looking for. It's like a map that guides them to the content they need. Usually, this starts with a menu at the top of the website or a smaller menu represented by a hamburger icon.
To make it easier for visitors, your homepage should clearly show the main pages and categories on your site. It should be easy for them to find sub-categories too, either through a drop-down menu or some other way of displaying links to sub-category pages. It's also important to have navigation that directs visitors to other important pages, like an "About Us" or "Contact" page.
By setting up a well-planned system of links, you can ensure that visitors can navigate your website smoothly. Depending on how your website is structured, the importance of your linking system may vary. In addition to links in the website menu, different types of links can enhance the user experience:
1. Calls-to-action (CTAs) are links strategically placed to guide visitors towards specific goals, such as signing up or making a purchase. They are very helpful for visitors who have a particular goal in mind. CTAs can be displayed as bold text, engaging words, or designed as buttons. 2. Internal links are links within your website that connect to other pages on the same site. Every website naturally has internal linking, but organizing them optimally for visitors is up to you. Sometimes, businesses group their pages into category "clusters" to guide visitors. Having a good internal linking system is also beneficial for search engine optimization (SEO). When search engines like Google analyze your website's sitemap, they see that effort has been made to provide visitors with the most relevant information in the right order.
3. Contextual links direct visitors to related content outside of your own website, such as product pages from other businesses, blog posts, sources, or news articles.
Different types of website structures
Explore the various kinds of website frameworks and examples presented here. Observe any recurring patterns and distinctive features in each of them. Determine which type of user will find the most advantages in these frameworks.
Gaining knowledge about the four fundamental structures and their applications will enhance your comprehension of constructing your own design or selecting a suitable website template:
Sequential (also known as Linear) model
Webbed (also known as network) model
The hierarchical model is the most popular website structure. In this model, the homepage serves as the starting point, and it branches out into different categories and pages based on their importance. This structure is highly adaptable and can be used for various types of websites, including personal service websites and online portfolios.
To implement the hierarchical model effectively, start by organizing your content based on its importance. Usually, it's best to present general information to users first before diving into more specific details. You can create a hierarchy by using wireframes and conducting card-sorting exercises to plan and test the arrangement of your pages.
Once you have your pages created and mapped out, use an interlinking system and navigation menu to establish this hierarchy on your website. This will allow users to navigate through your website following the intended structure and find the information they need more easily.
A sequential web structure leads users on a step-by-step path to accomplish their objective, whether it involves narrowing down categories, assisting in their search process, or locating a sign-up form. This straightforward and easy-to-manage structure is suitable for websites with limited content and pages, such as small business websites or online portfolios.
In a sequential website structure, the journey begins at the homepage or landing page, which displays a range of pages or categories. Visitors follow a linear progression that directs them through a series of parent pages, ultimately bringing them to the specific content they are seeking.
The webbed site structure gets its name from the visual representation it forms. It consists of a network of interconnected main pages, parent pages, and sub or child pages. By linking these pages together, the structure allows for easy access with minimal clicks. The webbed structure is particularly well-suited for e-commerce websites, including product pages and retail information for physical stores.
Although there will still be a homepage for visitors to land on, the primary objective of the site's overall structure is to facilitate quick access to other pages through extensive internal linking. The goal is to minimize the number of clicks required for users to navigate to their desired content.
The dynamic structure of a database is built from the ground up, considering various aspects such as metadata and content organization. This approach allows users to personalize their experience using search tools, similar to what Google offers.
Your bank's website serves as a great example of how databases are structured. Once you log in, you see information that is tailored specifically for you. If it were done traditionally, Google Nest Thermostats wouldn't have enough energy to constantly rebuild individual sites for each transaction. Instead, the data is retrieved from a database and shown to you. So, in a sense, the website provides a lot of customizable sections. The first step is creating a database that is compatible with your chosen system. Then, you can develop a website that can securely and accurately access and utilize that database.
Why is it important to pay attention to your website structure?
To help visitors accomplish their goals on your website, it's important to follow a specific sequence of elements. According to GoodFirms, 34.6% of online visitors will leave a site if its content structure is poor. Whether you're starting with a website template or building from scratch, it's your responsibility to ensure that visitors can easily find what they need on your site. This guarantees a strong website structure that enhances its user experience.
Now, let's consider the benefits for you as the creator. A well-structured website is valuable from a business perspective as well. A user-friendly site will undoubtedly leave customers satisfied. With the right approach, your structure will support your business by facilitating customer purchases and streamlining the checkout or contact processes.