We see it all the time. In the excitement or frantic hurry to get a functional website up and running, many businesses make one of the biggest mistakes in site design: not planning their website structure.
Organizing your content through information architecture and outlining it via a sitemap may seem like an unnecessary step or one that can be delayed to a later date, but it’s always better to do it right at the beginning—trust us on that one.
Important Terms in Website Planning
The first thing website operators need to know are a few basic definitions related to the digital structure of their online property. These concepts represent essential areas that work together to facilitate the creation, maintenance and use of your website for the rest of its life.
Information architecture (IA) describes the umbrella-like network of websites, pages and other digital resources that are part of your company’s presence on the internet. All of the pictures, written content, links and interactivity offered to users are all stored as information. The architecture of this information determines how users encounter, navigate and consume your digital presence.
Sitemaps are blueprints that represent your information architecture. They essentially look and function like an outline, but can become a bit more complicated depending on your needs and overall site design scheme. These maps are typically oriented around the user experience, rather than the developer’s view, and can be useful for search engine optimization (SEO) and navigation.
Virtually every internet user is familiar with the search box found on many websites that allows them to look for information based on certain key terms. This is a common, and powerful, type of internal navigation, but is certainly not the only kind that you should consider. Links to onsite and offsite destinations, drop-down menus, catalog displays, sister pages and visible page hierarchy are a few other types of navigational tools.
Your Website Structure Should Focus on the User
The real objective of website structure is to direct users towards reaching a specific goal, which could be getting them to read a page of written content, purchase a product or fill out a contact form. Once you are clear on what your real goals are, you need to anticipate how the person will typically encounter and interact with your site. Essentially, you need to put yourself in their shoes to create a sensible and desirable path towards the goal.
Anticipating the user means identifying what types of searches, links or other processes are likely to bring them to your site and what they will do once they get there. Home and landing pages often serve a critical role of enticing potential customers to continue further in a site. Confusing site design, obvious design flaws or slow performance are all easy ways to lose a visitor before they even consider what you are offering.
When we start working on a new website, our first priority is to learn more about the client.
Once we understand the nature, structure and goals of your business then we can start anticipating the habits, needs and expectations of your customer base. Just remember: playing for the audience is always the end goal of good performance.
Organize, Analyze and Improve Your Information Architecture
Successful information architecture makes your website more convenient for users and more accessible for developers. User experience should always be a priority, but strong structural organization also means it’s easier for your personnel to track, edit and maintain a growing network of pages laden with interactivity and information. We pay close attention to user flow in all of our design processes, because that’s what really matters most.
You won’t always get everything right the first time, especially if you don’t fully understand your users’ needs or browsing habits. That’s why it’s important to seek feedback and do plenty of internal testing on your own site to identify problems from the user perspective. Never hesitate to analyze your design to find ways to improve the overall experience for both new and seasoned users.
Going back to fix or rethink certain aspects of your site design can take time, but it’s time well spent. Companies that work with the Comit Developers team can reap all the benefits of a complete design and refining process without the stress of figuring it all out on their own. We’re here to advise, guide and provide skilled service throughout every stage in the process.
Build Your Site on the Right Foundation
Crafting an elegant and powerful website requires detailed planning and careful execution from the first step to the very last. That’s why we emphasize the value of strong information architecture practices for our clients, whether they are creating a completely new site or renovating an existing one.
Research is king in the world of IA and website structure design.
We follow every turn and bend in user flow, diligently study competitors and examine the details of each client’s business model so we can create an effective design that is customized to their needs. Our team usually asks a LOT of questions before designing a site, but that’s only because we want the answers that will help us deliver superior and successful solutions.
Websites are a primary marketing tool for modern businesses, which means you should always try to propel users to the desired goal in the least number of clicks without confusion. At Comit Developers, our team is prepared to empower your digital presence through detailed structural planning and implementation, so don’t hesitate to contact us to learn more about how our web design solutions can yield real benefits for your business.