Structuring Your Website: Best Practices

Vicente Diaz
By Vicente Diaz

What Are We Referring To When We Talk About Website Structure?

When we talk about a website’s structure we refer to how the website is set up, meaning how everything is linked and connected throughout its structure. We can appreciate these connections every time we go to a site and look how the navigations are based on logical hierarchies that are followed by categories, sub-categories, products, etc.

This comes to be very important when developing a site since we want our users to have a pleasant experience and be able to find what they want quickly and without trouble. We want to provide the same experience for the crawlers that the search engines use to display your pages in their search results. However, sometimes these crawlers don’t go through every corner of your site, so a good navigation along with a sitemap.xml and robots.txt will help the crawler to do its job more effectively.

Why Is Website Structure So Important?

Indexing

Site structure is crucial for people who use search engines (such as Google) to find what they are looking for, and depending on the case, you want your site to be indexed first in order to accumulate more traffic. A good site structure helps the search engine’s crawlers take a better look at your site, as they are able to collect data faster and more organized.

Link Power

Link Power involves correctly distributing the keywords and categories within the navigation to tell the crawlers which are our most important pages, and which ones should be indexed first.

Usability

This is completely related to the user; it is necessary for your site to deliver a great user experience. To do so, you need your navigation to be as clean and helpful as possible. Most users will leave the site if it is too difficult to navigate, or even if it takes too many clicks to get to their destination. As you can see, having a well-organized, easily navigable site can make a huge difference in terms of user experience.

Creating A Site Structure

Hierarchy Planning

Planning the structure of your website must be the first step. In this step, the main focus is to organize how the site is going to be hierarchized. By hierarchizing, I’m referring to presenting the information in a logical, easy-to-understand structure.

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The hierarchy needs to be simple and logical to create an easy and functional path for bot, the users and the crawlers.  To do this, it is key to organize the more important links/pages such asHome, About, and Contact directly in the header, which is usually where users would look to find this information.

The number of links located in the header must be limited to a certain number. Otherwise, it would look crowded and would be hard for the user to focus on the most important ones. That’s why the menu should be divided into categories and subcategories to create a better flow when navigating.

Keywords

As we know, people use specific keywords to find what they are looking for. Therefore, you need to plan your site around these keywords – not only will you increase your chances of being found by the search engines, but you will also be using labels that your target customer uses to describe your products or services. The best tactic to accomplish this is to use parent keywords in the top level and then add to their categories until you reach the deepest level.

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Looking at the example above, we can see how this table retailer divides them into the main menu header, then into the categories of tables, and then further into sub-categories. Note how they all are sharing the same keywords as they go deep in the hierarchy to improve the SEO when crawlers collect the data of the pages. This creates a more organized structure, which will be reflected in the search engines as well.

URL Structure

The site’s URL structure could enforce your site as well. Oftentimes, we see very confusing links that could freak us out because they don’t clearly describe where exactly we are on the site. That’s why is important to use clean URLs that follow the hierarchy that you planned. This gives users a better positioning within the site as well as provides them with a sense of security.

For example, the following URL structure is ideal:

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Rather than this:

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Create your navigation

Now that you have planned how your site would be hierarchized, you’ll want to focus on where your navigation bar is located. The basic elements of a website are divided into Header, Navigation Bar, Main Content, Sidebar, and Footer. We need to take advantage of all of this to create a great navigation schema for our users.

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Header

The header is usually a big strip across the top with a big heading and/or logo. This part of the site is usually displaying at all times and represents the brand on the site.

Navigation Bar

Here is where your main menu is going to be situated – this includes all of your most important pages that we discussed above. Normally, these categories and subcategories are populated to create an organized environment for the user. An often well-used strategy here would be adding a CTA button somewhere that could catch the user’s attention in order to do something, for example, “SHOP NOW!”.

Main Content

There is not much to say here. The main content is where all the content of your site will be displayed along with images, maps, and headlines that vary from page to page.

Sidebar

Oftentimes, there is a sidebar either located at the left or right side of the website. This is used to help the user navigate through related content, which could include some peripheral info, links, advertising, CTAs, etc. This comes to be very helpful when a wide variety of links and information are located on the website and you want to keep the navigation clean and organized.

Footer

Lastly, the footer. Just like the header, this section does not change throughout the site. This section generally contains fine print, copyright policies, or contact information. It’s a perfect place to put common information, which is not only important but required. This is also commonly used to place different navigation menus for quick access to popular content.

Wrapping Up

When developing a site’s structure, you need to carefully plan how everything is going to be organized through different hierarchies and designs. It is important to do all this before you start building your site to accomplish some better and faster results.

If you want to take full advantage of your site, it’s important to keep the following points in mind:

  • The logical path that the menus need to follow in order to create an easy and simple navigation for users and crawlers.
  • The specific keywords between different levels to organize products within categories.
  • Having a clean URL structure to give the user a sense of security and comfortability.
  • Take advantage of all the elements presented in our site to arrange evenly all our links, menus, and information.

By following all of this advice, your site will not only look cleaner and more user-friendly, but it will also enhance the possibility that you rank high in the SERPs.

Vicente is a Web Developer at Power Digital. Born and raised in Chile, he moved to San Diego, CA to pursue a degree in Management Information Systems at SDSU. His passion for coding and design has driven him to focus on currently on web development but desiring to extend his skills to further complex applications to create great user experiences in multiple environments.