Making your website easy to use is critical. As I mentioned in episode 13 when you start to build a website, it is tempting to just jump in and add content right away. Getting started with a website builder is exciting, and you probably can’t wait to begin sharing content with the world. Do not hesitate, start adding content immediately because the motivation from seeing your website develop will be worth the effort.
However, as I have learnt you should step back and take some time to think through your sites structure.
Your site’s “structure” is no more than how you’ve organized your content and how you’ve set up your navigation menus to help visitors get to that content.
Having a logical, optimized site structure will create a more user-friendly experience for your visitors and it can also help you improve your site’s search engine optimization (SEO).
In this episode, I am going to help you plan your site’s structure by focusing on three key areas:
Properly using categories and tags to organize your content.
Creating an effective main navigation menu to point people to the most important areas on your site.
Using your site’s footer to provide deeper links to your site’s content.
Note some of terms I will be using refer to WordPress as that is the tool I am most familiar with and is the tool I will be using to rebuild my websites. However I am sure other website building tools use a similar structure.
As an aside you may come across the term content management system or CMS. A CMS is software that helps users create, manage, and modify content on a website without the need for specialized technical knowledge.
In simpler language, a content management system is a tool that helps you build a website without needing to write all the code from scratch (or even know how to code at all).
Instead of building your own system for creating web pages, storing images, and other functions, the content management system handles all that basic infrastructure stuff for you so that you can focus on more forward-facing parts of your website.
WordPress is a prime example of a content management system but there are many out there. For a review of 15 available CMS Ctrl+Click here.
Let’s get started so that you can create a strong foundation for your site and set it up for long-term success!
Here’s Why Your Site’s Structure Is Important
In a nutshell, the structure is important because it will affect how easy it is for your site’s visitors to find the content that they’re interested in.
If people can easily find what they’re looking for, they’ll be more likely to stick around and engage with your site. But if they can’t find what they’re looking for, they’ll be more likely to “bounce” and leave your site. Basically, even if your site offers exactly what the person is looking for, they still might leave if your site’s structure doesn’t make it easy for them to discover that content.
You can also use your site’s structure to highlight key content and nudge your site’s visitors towards the content that you want them to engage with.
If your goal is to make money with your website, this means that optimizing your site’s structure can help you boost your revenue and other key performance metrics.
Beyond that, your site’s structure will also help search engine robots like Googlebot understand which parts of your site are the most important, which can affect your site’s SEO.
Now that you know why site structure is important, let’s talk about how to get it right…
Three Key Elements to Plan Your Site Structure
If you want to create an optimal site structure for your site, you’ll want to focus on three key elements:
- , which organize your site’s content in a logical way for humans and search engines.
- , which helps visitors quickly access key areas on your site.
- , which typically link to “deeper” areas on your site.
These are not the only elements that affect your site structure, but they are the most important and they’ll apply to all WordPress sites.
In general, it’s useful to plan out these structural elements before you build a website. While you can always change them later, it’s better to get them right, from the very start.
Shishir Mishra writing for Harvard Business Publishing in an article entitled Website Design Tips and Tricks suggests that use sticky notes to create a site map of your website. Think of a family tree! This will allow you to map out the user flow for your website. This will help you outline how the user will navigate through the different pages of the site. The user flow should be set up so it helps the user take the action you want them to take. That could be sign up for a newsletter, take advantage of a free trial, purchase a product or service. Remember to make your call to action clear and visible. Only one CTA per page. I may be digressing slightly here but setting a deadline for your CTA will encourage your potential client or lead to take action.
Jeff Walker who developed what he calls the sideways newsletter, although he uses videos rather than text recommends set out a short and clearly defined period when people are allowed to buy your offer. Typically, three to seven days. Walker describes this as “cart open” and “cart close.” This gives people a compelling reason to purchase now. If you want to know more about this technique you can listen to my Season 8 Episode 50 which discusses the how and the pitfalls of designing an online course.
- Site structure is important because it helps visitors to your site find what they need. This reduces bounce rates.
- It guides viewers to the actions you want to take. Remember keep your CTA clear and only one CTA per page.
- Consider a limited time offer to encourage viewer to take action.
- Use sticky notes to map out your structure
Categories and Tags:
In Episode 15 we will look at categories and tags and how they help you organize your posts. You can assign categories and tags to posts as you create them
We’re starting with categories and tags because how you structure them could play a role in how you configure the other navigation areas on your site.
Both categories and tags help you group your content together, but they do so in different ways so it’s important to understand the differences.