Website Navigation Structure for Your Venture
When you begin to make your own website, having a proper website navigation structure is as important as the content.
A bad structure can deter your visitors away. If you provide a good user experience, visitors will keep flocking to your website.
For that, the structure of your website is extremely important. This article discusses what structure is the right fit for your website and how to prepare it.
Analyze The Market and Your Audience
Look at what structures others in a similar niche as yours are following.
For instance, if you are an e-commerce website, check out your competitor’s website.
This will help you analyze how well their structure works for their audience.
Plus, also what the user expects of you so that they are not confused while searching for items.
The shortcomings of your competitors can also be a guiding step.
You can build upon their strengths and be wary of their weaknesses when designing your own navigation structure.
Looking at how the target audience on your site navigates through your competitor’s website can help you analyze how you can give a much better experience than your competitors.
Moreover, it will aid you in knowing how you can appeal to your audience and make your site’s navigation easily accessible for them.
Looking Into the Technical Stuff
Creating Internal Linking and Sitemap
Using internal links strategically can make a story regarding the topic.
Hence, it should go from one page to another in a cohesive way that generates enough curiosity in your visitors to click on the link.
There should be an underlying purpose of the link and it should let your visitors navigate the site.
When they get some value from the site, the visitors may stick around.
So do not bombard them with links rather provide them value.
After internal links, you also need a sitemap file.
Search engines use this map to navigate your website in order to determine what pages should the bots crawl.
It finds out how the pages are connected to one another and what should rank on the search engine page results.
So with a sitemap, the search engine bots will quickly scan the important pages on your website and make them available to your visitors on the SERPs.
Learn more about Establishing a Website Redesign Plan For More Leads here.
Work Website Navigation Structure and URL Strategy
Before you build a sitemap, it is important to have your website structure down.
The market and audience research can help in the matter to choose what structure to opt for.
There are four types of structures usually followed in websites. More on that below.
However, if you are not sure what you want, a UX or UI designer can guide your web developers through regarding the structure your website needs to have.
Once the structure is set, your URL strategy goes hand in hand with that.
The structure of the URL should show a logical path that the website follows too while going from page to page.
For instance, if you are setting up pages in a hierarchical manner then in the URL, the sub-category would follow the main category leading to the target webpage.
Take this for an example:
Sweaters are the main category whereas lambswool is a type of wool used in sweaters that becomes the sub-category leading to the product page.
It is a logical pathway that can take visitors forward as well as back to the top category from the bottom one.
However, if there are not many categories, then the page’s heading can be its short URL too.
When everything is set, it is time for a test run.
User testing can identify issues with the structure that need mending.
You can find out if there are certain elements that impeded navigation and site searching.
Does your visitor face difficulty while reaching a certain link?
Are there any bottlenecks or places where the visitors and users feel stuck?
What steps to take to improve their experience?
Implement the user feedback to get a hold of what improvements your target audience will like to see.
But first, let’s set your structure!
Essentially structure of the website follows two approaches.
Either Top-down or Bottom-up.
The Top-down structure design an overall flow of how categories will be set up.
Hence, everything needs organization from the very beginning.
It follows a logical structure that is easy for the users to navigate and follow-through from one step to the next.
Moreover, it is easier for search engine crawlers to navigate the pages as well.
Though, there is a downside.
Since everything is planned from the start, the website setup and the flow cannot be changed later on.
In the Bottom-up approach, it is easier to make adjustments and it continues to develop over time.
That makes it feasible for the website owners however, it can get rather difficult to navigate for the visitors, regular users, as well as search engines.
Following these approaches, there are 4 types of structures.
Let’s dig in deeper below!
Hierarchical and Database
The most popular structure is usually the hierarchical one.
It follows a tree structure whereby pages go from bigger categories to smaller ones.
Hence, you will have main categories, sub-categories and then the product pages which are individual pages.
This structure commonly comes into use in e-commerce websites.
These websites usually have a large amount of data.
Hence, following a hierarchy works best, in this case, to keep all the data organized.
Begin by making informational pages and other important pages that will gather the most traffic.
This can be your landing page.
Next, find out how your pages fit into categories from these main pages.
While setting up, keep both your users as well as the crawler bots in consideration.
Once such a structure is set up, it is extremely difficult to change it again because this is a top-down approach.
Hence thoroughly think through each and every step.
On the other hand, there is the bottom-up approach of the database structure.
It is a very complex structure that requires uses tagging and metadata in order to make a searchable database.
Users reach what they want to know by searching and tags plus metadata helps them reach there.
Almost 30 percent of people visiting a website use the site search option.
Hence, if there is searchable data present for what the visitor is looking for, there is a chance your visitors will convert.
The advantage of following this structure is that you can always change or add elements.
Plus, it can be specifically personalized according to your needs.
As you can build it along the way, there is no pressure of being perfect from the get-go.
Since the database keeps growing, the previous database forms its own dataset under a larger structure.
This is a hard and complex structure to maintain.
Therefore, you will need someone with programming knowledge to be sure nothing gets lost in translation.
They will check the level of data present on your website and strategize categories accordingly.
Linear and Matrix
A linear structure goes from one page to another at a time.
The pathway is quite simple and useful when creating a campaign that has several landing pages.
The sequential approach works when your website is comparatively newer.
Since there are only fewer essential pages on a new website, a startup business can benefit from this approach, showing only useful content.
However, this approach is also found in larger e-commerce websites when it is checkout time.
While checking out visitors usually go from the cart to information, shipping, payment and then completing the process.
Hence, it comes into use when there is a chronological order to things going from one step to the next.
Usually, in an online course or sales funnel, this structure allows the user to go through specific steps that come one after another and make the process straightforward.
Hence, this structure can be a part of your website where the logical and linear sequence can improve the user experience.
This can be on the landing page, for some content ideas, highlighting your offerings and also during checkout.
The sequential structure is fairly simple on the other hand, the matrix is a non-traditional, complex structure.
Internal links and site search option comes in handy in order to navigate it.
One example is Wikipedia.
There are several options for the next search and there is a large amount of information in a word cloud format.
The next step does not depend on parent-child pages rather on the user wherever they like to click.
This structure works for websites with a narrow focus.
These include fan base sites or training databases for the company systems.
It will not work for broad topics as that can be overwhelming.
List the pages that connect with each other and create links so that users can go from one page to another.
Benefits of a Website Navigation Structure
- It makes for good User Experience
- Structured data is an SEO factor
- The structure prevents keyword cannibalization
Since you want your visitors to stay and convert, you need to give them a good user experience.
In fact, many users will not return to a site if you do not give them a good experience.
Those that follow a structure and usually hierarchy provide a seamless experience for users.
The easier the navigation, the better the experience.
Plus, structured data plays an important role in SEO.
Specifically for SEO, the best structure is hierarchical.
It is much easier for crawlers to crawl a logical structure and that helps in raking the website higher and the content to be indexed.
Plus when you lay out a structure, it becomes hard for keyword cannibalization.
Hence, content that has similar topics will still be differently organized so that the crawlers can distinguish them.
So it provides the users and crawlers a clear idea of what it represents.
What to Choose?
So what website structure should you choose?
That depends on your audience and the kind of website you are trying to build.
It should align with your core ideas and how the users interact with the site. Do they search or will they look categorically?
When it is clear that there is plenty of data and categories, then going for a database or hierarchical structure is best.
Though, if you want to deliver only bite-sized data chunks that are too in chronological order then go for a linear structure.
On the other hand, if you have a lot of content and links, choose a matrix approach similar to the Wikipedia style.
When you have a strong website navigation structure, it is easy for your users as well as web crawlers to access your site.
This leads to conversion, indexing your content and also ranking your website higher in SERPs.