One of the first considerations when building a website is the site’s structure. A well-planned structure is fundamental to the success of the website and can prevent issues in later stages of the site development. Website architecture design involves planning the layout and design of the website, identifying the pages to be included, determining how consumers will navigate the site, and planning how these pages will link together. Based on the learning from marketing research and competitor website performance, the marketing team—along with subject matter experts, such as website developers—is responsible for ensuring an optimal website architecture design.
A key factor that the marketing team must consider when planning the website architecture is click-depth. Click-depth or crawl-depth refers to the minimum number of clicks required of a website visitor in order to get from the “root” web page to a desired web page. The root web page is the page that displays when only the domain is in the URL (i.e., no path information is included). The objective is to enable visitors to find what they are looking for with ease. Companies must ensure that the click-depth is kept as low as possible, so that users and search engines can reach any point on the site within a minimum number of clicks.
The marketing team analyzes how each page will be linked internally and externally, creating categories and subcategories within the site. While creating the website, search-friendly URLs should be used to increase the relevance of the links and help the organic ranking for the website. Additionally, duplicate meta tags, meta descriptions, and titles should be avoided to prevent confusing web crawlers.
In short, the website design architecture should assure visitors they are on the right page; ensure visitors can easily find what they are looking for by providing a clear navigation path and search feature; properly link together the various pages; and ensure that the website is easy to navigate not only for customers, but also for web crawlers so that the site content can be detected by search engines.
A critical component of website architecture is scalability. Website designers must ensure that websites are designed in a way that navigation is not compromised when new functionality, product lines, or business units are added. Consumers have a low tolerance for long wait-times or high click depth pages and will quickly leave a site that does not provide optimal usability. For example, a business may start with a simple website to build awareness of the brand, and provide details of the product offering; however, if the company chooses to add an e-commerce component at a later date, the e-commerce capability should be aligned with the existing product catalog so that customers can continue to navigate the site with ease and purchase products quickly and securely. A well-thought-out architecture at the planning stage will enable this new functionality without overhauling the existing site.
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