The Ins and Outs of Website Structure

Posted on February 5, 2024 | Updated on June 11, 2024

Website structure is an essential component designers should pay attention to. It helps users navigate around on a site and also plays a role in how the website ranks on search engines. Learn the ins and outs of website structure, why it is essential and a few tips designers can utilize.

What Is Website Structure?

Website structure — sometimes referred to as website architecture — is the order and hierarchy of a site’s web pages. It refers to how all the pages on the website are connected. A great structure provides seamless navigation, makes it easier for Google to index and enhances the user’s experience.

Think of it this way: when going to the grocery store, you would expect the placement of products to follow some hierarchy. For example, walking down the produce aisle and seeing cleaning supplies placed next to vegetables — that would make no sense. If there were no order and layout, it would make finding what you are looking for a shopping nightmare.

In many cases, people would just leave and go to a store where they can easily locate the items they want. Website structure is the same. Users might not recognize a good structure when scrolling through a site, but they will certainly notice if one is missing.

Why Does Website Structure Matter?

Website architecture is essential because it impacts a user’s experience and search engine rankings. Typically, a website has several pages that cover various topics. A good structure keeps everything organized and makes it easy for visitors to quickly find what they are looking for.

If visors have difficulty understanding the structure and struggle to navigate around, they might decide to take their business elsewhere. According to research, 34% of users leave a website due to poor structure.

In addition to providing users with an improved site experience, it also makes it simpler for Google to understand what the website is about. Good website architecture allows a search engine to easily find and index the site’s web pages. That said, because structure relies on the excellent use of internal linking, it can also spread authority to other web pages.

Another essential reason website structure is crucial is that it can prevent keyword cannibalization. This is when multiple pages with the same keywords on a website try to show up in search engine result pages (SERPS). In this case, Google would not know which page to rank higher. This creates several challenges and can harm a website’s rankings.

How Many Types of Website Structures Are There?

Websites have different needs and because of this, there are various kinds of structures. The architecture a site should use depends on the website’s objective. That said, here are the four main ones that most sites rely on:

1. Hierarchical Model

Hierarchical is one of the most common site structures available. It works well for large companies or sites with significant content. In this model, the homepage acts as the starting point and leads to other pages/categories.

It spreads out to other subcategories or child pages. The way it branches out is typically determined by how important the information is. In other words, when designers decide how to order pages and categories, they do it based on how vital the page’s information is.

2. Sequential/Linear Model

A linear structure is a bit different from the previous model. This architecture follows a logical layout that places one page above another. In other words, it places pages in a sequence.

It is best utilized for small businesses or a portfolio site. The sequential model starts on the homepage/landing pages and then shows the visitor a few offerings. Once the user chooses one, they learn more about it on the next page and continue with their journey until they find everything they were looking for.

For example, a fitness website offering three different types of packages could utilize this model. On the home page, users will be greeted by the service packages they provide. After selecting one, they will learn more details about the program they have chosen on the following page.

3. Database Model

The database model works well for websites that have several user-created content pages. Google itself and Meduim.com is a good example of this.

Visitors will first need to input what type of content they are searching for. From there, the site can display the necessary pages and information the user seeks. The database model uses a bottom-up approach and allows users to create their own personalized experience.

4. Matrix Model

A matrix model website does not have a specific sequence a user should take. Instead, visitors find what they are looking for by searching or clicking on internal links.

This is an older type of website structure that has been around for years. Online newspaper sites frequently follow this model. Another great example is Wikipedia. This structure provides several ways for users to access the site’s content.

3 Tips For Developing a Great Website Structure

Here are a few tips to help designers choose the best structure based on the website’s needs:

1. Reflect on the Website’s and the User’s Needs

The best place to start is to list what pages and subcategories the website will require. This will provide designers with a better indication of what website structure makes sense for the site.

In addition, they should also think about the journey they want the visitor to take. This is where a user flow diagram can prove incredibly useful.

2. Utilize Internal Linking

A good website architecture requires internal linking. Use it throughout the website’s design where it makes sense. For example, a services section can link to a contact page. Think about additional ways to make it easier for the user to navigate where they want to go.

3. Think About Competitors

Another great strategy to use is to look at what website competitors are doing. Often, many of them will follow the same website structure. Look at what they do well or how they could make parts better and incorporate it into your website.

The Importance of Website Structure

Website structure is an essential factor site owners should pay attention to. It provides users with an improved site experience, makes it easier for Google to index the site and prevents keyword cannibalization.

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