by Joe Cox, Content Director at Superb Digital
Without a clearly defined structure, your website will simply be a miscellaneous collection of pages that are impossible to navigate. Despite being such an integral part of delivering a seamless user experience (UX), it is surprising how many decision makers fail to invest enough energy into the creation of a logical and intuitive site structure that ensures each page is easily accessible.
Importantly, your site structure also has search engine optimisation (SEO) benefits. As such, it is always worth investing time, thought and attention into the structure of your website from the outset because it will form a strong foundational element for both your content and your optimisation strategy.
What is Website Structure?
In short, site structure refers to the organisation of on-site content. Also sometimes referred to as site taxonomy, it might be helpful to think of your site’s structure as being akin to the contents page that can be found at the front of a textbook. In this analogy, if your website is the textbook, your site categories will be the chapters and individual pages, blog posts or sub-categories are similar to the smaller topics that relate to a chapter as a whole.
A solid navigational structure is imperative for almost all websites with more than a single page and this is especially true for sites which contain a lot of content. As such, your website should include an intuitive navigation menu which allows visitors to locate and easily reach the individual pages they are looking for. Remember, if your visitors find your site difficult to navigate or they can’t locate the information they want easily and efficiently, they will simply look elsewhere and likely engage the services of one of your closest competitors.
The Importance of Site Structure.
When it is designed correctly, site structure has a positive impact on both discoverability and usability.
We’ve already touched upon usability but when designing structure with UX in mind, your web development team must carefully consider your audience and create a structure that serves their requirements. You need to ensure that every visitor to your site can immediately garner a sense as to who you are and what you have to offer, and your site structure can contribute significantly to this understanding.
As we have also intimated, your site architecture has myriad SEO benefits. In addition to providing Google with the essential signals it needs to understand both the content and context of your website, a solid site architecture will help you to avoid unnecessarily competing with your own content for the most prominent ranking positions in search engine results pages (SERPs).
So, for example, your website might contain a lot of fairly similar content, such as multiple product pages in a very similar category or several blog posts which discuss the industry or sector within which you operate. If this is the case, search engines won’t always be able to accurately determine which piece of content is most important and you could be left competing against yourself as well as your competitor brands.
Whether you are an online retailer with products that may sell out or alter over time, or your site is consistently being updated with fresh content that makes older blog posts and articles somewhat redundant, you don’t want search engines to display deleted content or out-dated products in key SERPs as this will negatively impact key metrics. A good site structure will help you to deal with the natural changes that will occur on your website.
The Right Site Structure for your Website.
There are many considerations that both yourself and your web developer should cover in creating your ideal site structure but it should:
- Help every visitor to locate the information they are looking for easily and efficiently
- Guarantee that all visitors can navigate your website with ease
- Be optimised for both search engines and UX, without considerations for one being to the detriment of the other
Ultimately, however, your site structure should fully reflect your business and be informed by the goals and objectives you want it to help you achieve, such as contributing to increased sales or presenting a trustworthy and professional brand image to every visitor.
If site structure wasn’t at the top of your to-do list in terms of either UX or SEO previously, you’re certainly not going to be alone. But we hope this short article has highlighted its importance and illustrated how designing an intuitive and thoughtful navigational structure has many advantages that will benefit your business over both the short and longer term.
After all, it is hard work to secure and maintain a solid ranking position in key SERPs and you should be employing every white-hat tactic here to ensure that your site is visible above those of your closest competitors.