How to Plan a Website Structure

How to plan a website structure

UX Research and SEO tools in website structure development. A detailed overview of the website structure designing tools can be found in our new article.

Contents:

What is Website Structure?

How to plan a website structure
The website structure is the actual display of the navigation plan on your site. Each element of your website structure implies a real page. By forming the structure of your website you develop the navigation and lay the foundation on which the design of your future site will be built. In a broad sense, the website structure is a treasure map in which the treasure is a product that you want to sell to a potential Customer. Optimizing a simple user route to make a purchase from your website is a priority for you and your business.

Where do I Start?

How to Plan a Website Structure
Planning the website structure is a very time-consuming process. For the most intuitive display of the structure, the ‘Visual Sitemap’ tool is used. A Visual Sitemap is a hierarchical diagram reflecting the actual structure of your website. The main reason of this tool’s popularity is the complete comprehension of the structure that it gives to the UX designer. At the beginning of development the site map diagram allows you to look ‘down upon’ your project, to estimate its scale and to work out errors. At the moment, the Visual Sitemap is the most convenient way to develop a website structure. It should be remembered that the benefits of the logical site structure affect not only the UX, but also the identification of the site by search engine algorithms, which directly affects the ranking of the site in a search engine. Unfortunately, high ranking in a search engine is not a panacea for your business, and if you want to create a successful Internet project, you should start with the most fundamental questions. Your business is not just a ‘relevant query’ in a search engine, but first and foremost a product that a potential Customer is looking for. You should start by defining the fundamental purpose of your business. This knowledge will further help you to define the goals in planning the development of your website.

Competitor Analysis

Competitor Analysis
Competitor analysis is an important step towards creating a good structure of your website. As in any competitive business, you should pay attention to the way your competitors do business. Such an approach can save you from unnecessary mistakes. In practice, there is often a situation when an entrepreneur neglects these simple but important rules, creating the website structure solely by intuition. Such actions often lead to wasted time and lack of results. This provokes unnecessary costs, audit and repeated development of the entire site, focusing primarily on the correct structure. Analysis of your competitors’ websites structure will help to fix and prevent errors that they had already made at the start. In order to create a detailed and flawless structure, it is necessary to analyze several competitors at once. Prepare a detailed table that compares your competitor’s websites. This will help you see and correct the errors of some sites using the structure of others. As a result, you will receive a working database, which can be further contextually worked out to create the optimal structure of your site.

Defining your Target Audience

Defining your Target Audience
Modern responsive interface development experience offers you a wide range of different tools. Interviews, A/B testings, working out the personas of your customers – this is only a small part of the tools available to the modern UX designer. The main focus of the UX methodology is aimed at defining the target audience and working with it. The correct and timely use of UX tools allows the designer to create a structural understanding of the target audience and identify its needs as precisely as possible. In practice, the Client’s perception of of his target audience needs is often fundamentally different from its real needs. It is the timely use of UX methodology tools that makes it possible to identify the true needs of the target audience, which often fundamentally changes the vector of the website development and eliminates the costs of developing any unnecessary functionality. The process of correct target audience defining plays a decisive role in website structure creation. Understanding the ‘true’ needs of your website visitors allows you to create the most intuitive navigation system by using which the user can obtain the necessary information with ease.

You can get more information about the UX Research in our ‘Planning the website development’ article.

Semantic Core and Clustering

Semantic Core and Clustering
Modern market dictates the rules of correct website structure formation for every Internet business. Therefore, there is always a need for the future search engine optimization. Competitor and target audience analysis is only a part of the preparatory work. The next step is the development of a semantic core and its clustering. The semantic core is a set of search queries based on key phrases that users use on the Internet when searching for a product or service similar to yours. The semantic cluster is a multi-level structure consisting of a group of search queries combined within a meaning. For example, let us consider the content of this particular article in the format of a semantic cluster. In this case, the semantic cluster of the first order will be ‘How to plan a website structure’. Inside the cluster of the first order there are clusters of the second order: ‘What is a website structure?’ and so on. There are also clusters of the third order, but in most cases it is sufficient to single out only the business-specific clusters of the second order. For example, the cluster of the second order for an ‘iPhone’ query will be a transactional (low-frequency) query of ‘Buy iPhone XS Max’. After working out the semantic core and its clusters, you will be able to process and structure the requests of your target audience in order to develop a content plan and refine the structure of your site.

Content Development

Content Development
What are the goals of the website? Who are our users? What information do they need? What does our analysis tell us?

If you follow the recommendations described above, then you will probably get answers to most of these questions. The knowledge that you will receive through the competitor and target audience analysis should be used at one of the most important stages of website development, that is the ‘content development’. Unfortunately, content development is often postponed for later, giving priority to other ‘more important’ matters, such as ‘Design’ or ‘Writing code’. In fact, saving time and money on content development is a strategic mistake. When creating a new website, it is important to remember that the content is of the crucial role to the user. There is absolutely no need for a good design if your site has nothing to offer to your target audience. If the site is useless to the customer, the code optimization and quick loading time will make no difference. When designing the website structure, the content that will be posted on it should be taken into account. Ultimately, you design the navigation in order to provide the user with the most convenient way to display the information necessary for him.
If you do not want to create a beautiful but useless resource, start developing the content as early as possible. Create a content plan based on the content matrix. To create a simple matrix, you need to build a table with intersections of customer types and their points of interest at different stages of product use. Use the clusters that you have discovered during the analysis of the semantic core for this purpose. Personalize user requests to identify their attitude towards the products. Determine the path that the user would walk from a ‘random visitor’ to a ‘regular customer’. Find out the user’s attitude to the work of your competitors at different stages of interaction with the brand. The received information will allow you to develop the most efficient content plan for each target group.

User Flows

User Flows
Designing User Flows is one of the tasks that needs to be taken care of in advance. Nowadays it is difficult to imagine that the main page is the only entry point of your website. The User Flow design tool allows you to consider different website entry points, highlighting the obvious shortcomings that the user may encounter. It is important to implement a User Flow Diagram to evaluate the interaction experience. You should use the obtained data when optimizing the structure of your site. It is also important to make the equally convenient navigation for users that are visiting your site from different entry points. Based on the User Flow Diagram analysis, the content should be optimized and changes should be made to the site structure accordingly.

In order to learn more about the purpose and experience of using User Flow Diagrams, read the article in our blog.

Forming a relevant website structure

Forming a relevant website
Once you have completed all the preparatory work, you can finally begin to build the structure of your website. The most popular form is the creation of a ‘Visual Sitemap’. A Visual Sitemap helps to define the hierarchy of the web pages clearly and accurately. Based on the data obtained, you can begin to develop a ‘Visual Sitemap’ diagram. As a rule, the hierarchy of a ‘Visual Sitemap’ is as follows: links from all pages of the site lead to the “Main Page”, links of ‘Subsections’ lead to ‘Sections’, and links of the website pages lead to ‘Subsections’. When forming the website structure, it is important to keep in mind that the page hierarchy is determined by the ‘weight’ (or ‘importance’) of the links. Statistically, link weights are a key parameter determining the site priority on the global Internet. The more there are links to a particular website, the more popular it is. The same principle works within a specific site. The more links leading to a particular page within the website, the more important it is compared to other pages. You should control the weight of links on your website, thereby determining their priority. Let us review the example of managing the weight of links. The website dedicated to the sale of smartphones can have a huge amount of information about the new iPhone XS Max, but with proper distribution of link weights, the page where this iPhone can be bought will have a priority in search results. If the links weight is distributed incorrectly, the user’s query ‘Buy iPhone XS Max’ will not lead to the page where the smartphone can be bought. Another rule to consider when planning your website structure is to control the ‘depth of viewing’. Design your structure so that the depth of your site does not exceed three or four clicks. This ensures easy user navigation, providing a clear and understandable navigation from any entry point without problems. The relevant structure of the site collects traffic and provides visibility for the search engine.

Conclusion

Development of the website structure is a serious work. In this article, we reviewed basic UX designing tools and touched upon the principles of SEO optimization. When starting to develop the site structure, It is important to keep in mind that right now there is an opportunity to work out most of the scenarios of how users interact with your website. You should consider the interface errors, and save yourself from spending money on reworking your website. Learn more about the integration of UX methodology in product development and maintenance, and you will have the opportunity to control and monitor the success of your project at different stages of product development.

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