- Lance Johnson 01.29.2015
The success of a website depends heavily on its traffic; and, in turn, the kind of traffic it gets depends on how easy it is for the users to locate what they want there. In short, website design plays a key role in pulling in the right kind of audience to your site, keeping them there and engaging them deeper and deeper in your sales cycles. Good site architecture lays the foundation for giving your end users a great experience when they land on your website. It also helps you rank better in search engine listings because good site architecture makes it easy for search engine spiders to evaluate the content on your site and index it all easily for future recall.
Great site architecture serves one main purpose- it minimizes the number of clicks taken to give the user exactly what he seeks. In practice this means that keeping the number of clicks to get from your home page to your deepest page at a minimum is key to great site architecture. Keep in mind the deeper your pages, the less visible they are to search engines. By ‘flattening’ or pushing the content rich pages higher up in your site’s architecture, you exponentially increase the likelihood of spiders crawling the page and indexing them. Clearly, it is imperative to organize your website’s pages since it serves a dual purpose—making the site more easily accessible to your user and making it easier for search engine spiders to ‘capture’ the page.
Planning your site’s architecture is a very critical process and it is a complex one too. One of the challenges is that there is no standard template that you can follow for guaranteed success. That is because every website has its own unique set of objectives, strengths and weaknesses. There is simply no one-size-fits-all architecture that can be duplicated for maximizing visibility and usability. Take a look at some of the steps you should follow in this planning process:
The very first thing to do is to gain a comprehensive understanding of what you want your user to do and what you want him to get. Start with an outline of the website’s overall objectives. Once this first question is answered you can move on to others such as: will content be added later on, what pages will be needed and how will all the individual pages be inter- related, what different kinds of users do you want to cater to, how do you propose to cater to the different goals that your website has?
A very crucial aspect is to maintain a completely practical approach to the entire architecture planning process. It is not enough to know what the site’s objectives are or how to woo customers; it is equally important to know how to translate these desirables into practical design. To do this, it is very important to first gain a good understanding of exactly who your customer or user is. Start by creating a customer profile that tells you who your user is, what he seeks and how best you can communicate with him.
Making good use of opportunities is absolutely imperative but in most websites there are many that go unutilized. Look at every page in terms of how it can advance the site’s visibility further or pull your user in deeper into the sales funnel. For example, a Thank You page can be an opportunity to get a user to sign up for newsletters.
A well structured website is one that tells the user exactly what he will find and where. It gives him a clear path to navigate to get to the information he needs in the minimum possible time. At every step of the navigation process, the next steps are made clear and there is no ambiguity or delay at any stage of the process until he gets to the page he wants. Every page in your site needs to play role in this process and every page needs to come with a strong call to action that tells the user what to do next (and brings him deeper into your sales funnel, in the process). Also keep in mind that one page should have one clear objective instead of many.
Your Home Page is your best chance to make a killer first impression on your user and you should NOT miss this opportunity at any cost. However, in putting your best foot forward, there is a risk of forgetting that this page also serves as a sort of index to your entire website. Invest enough time and attention in ensuring that your Home Page indicates to your user all of your site’s content without giving him an information overdose. Present it all in such a way that it makes maximum impact to lure him deeper into your pages.
After having investing hours in your website design and armed with your insider’s knowledge about your business, it is super easy to miss issues and gaps in the site’s architecture. After all, you know exactly what is onsite and where to find it but your user doesn’t. Get someone to review your site and point out all the problems, loopholes and bloopers in it before you go public. Once they have gone through the site, ask them to carry out the process that is the main objective of the site (for example, sell a product to a user). If they get it right and can complete the process with minimum hassle and delay, your site has good basic structure that can be transformed into an effective engine for driving customer conversions. If the main purpose of your site is unclear, then a major rework is probably in the offing!
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