How to Design Your Website Architecture

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July 4, 2013
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July 18, 2013
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How to Design Your Website Architecture

In this instalment of Words that Bite, I offer some tips on how to prepare your website content.

Think about how to organise the information on your website so it is as user-friendly as possible

This is an aspect of website development that is often overlooked, as there is a tendency for everyone in an office to get distracted by design issues, such as the colour scheme. Believe me, I love thinking about these things too, but there are other things to consider when you are putting together a website.

Although the look of a website is important, how the information is organised and displayed plays a big role in determining how customers or clients will respond to your site. The people who live and work in the digital world call it ‘information architecture’.

Planning your website’s architecture should involve four steps:

Step 1: Pretend you know nothing at all about your business

My advice to anyone thinking of putting together their own website or briefing a website developer or designer is:

  • Put yourself in your customer’s or client’s shoes.
  • Never assume anything is obvious to a potential customer or client.
  • Assume that a visitor to your website knows nothing about your product or service.

If you start with these three principles, you will have a much better chance of creating a website that is enjoyable for a potential customer or client to visit, partly because it is easy for them to navigate.

Step 2: Plan the structure of your website

At the beginning of the website-planning process, you need to sit down and draw a plan of your site.

This involves thinking at a ‘page’ level, and you need to do this before even thinking about writing the copy for each page.

This process involves two steps:

  • Write a list of all your pages.
  • Look at how they are going to fit together.

You need to play with the plan until you get the perfect structure. Think about the most logical and systematic way to organise the material you want to include.

Not only that, you need to calculate how many pages you need, while also considering the cost factor. Sometimes, you may discover that pages need to be split because there is too much information for one page, so that it has ended up covering too many topics or categories. At other times, you may find that there isn’t enough information on a particular subject to justify an entire page, so you will need to cut the page.

Show the plan to your colleagues, friends or relatives; anyone who doesn’t know much about your business and is willing to give you feedback. Listen to what they say. Use their comments and criticism to make your website even more user-friendly.

Finally, make sure you go through several drafts of the structure until you get it right.

Step 3: Don’t just concentrate on the top layers of your website

One of the biggest problems with websites is that most of the planning goes into the top levels and the lower ones are neglected. Yet, it is often the lower levels (especially for something like an online store) that are the most important.

If you are proposing to create a large website with a lot of pages, make sure you think about every page, from the home page to the most obscure one. You also need to consider how all the pages fit together.

In short, avoid creating a website that looks like a dog’s breakfast!

Step 4: Plan the navigation of your website

The other important aspect to consider is how a visitor is going to navigate your website.

In order to get this right, you need to:

  • Draw a road map of how a hypothetical visitor will travel around your website. This should help remove any obvious hiccups in usability.
  • Again, show the plan to friends, family or acquaintances who don’t know much about your business.
  • Watch them as they try to navigate your site (you’ll be amazed by the pitfalls you hadn’t seen when you put together the first draft of your road map).
  • Revise your road map and test it, until you are satisfied that your website is going to be easy for customers or clients to use.

To summarise

Often, planning a website is not easy and takes time. Yet taking your time and putting in the work early on can save major problems later.

Website developers and designers often tell me that their biggest gripe with clients is them wanting their website to go into development before they have thought through its structure.

So, at the beginning of your website-planning process, make sure you spend plenty of time planning, and talking through, the architecture and navigation of your site. It could mean the difference between a visitor staying for only the standard eight seconds or sticking around to buy your product or service.

In the next instalment of Words that Bite, the Pink Rottweiler will look at how to create your website wireframe.

Are you too busy running your business to think about your website architecture? Would you like someone to design it for you? If so, call the Pink Rottweiler on +61 (0)409 609 903 or email me at info@pinkrottweilercopywriting.com.au.

Who is the Pink Rottweiler? The Pink Rottweiler is Genevieve Burnett – a copywriter who will take the time to research your business and come up with the smart words to sell your product or service.

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