Website architecture is a term referring to the essential structure and planning that must go into building a website. Like a large building, such as a skyscraper, you can’t start at the top. You have to start at the bottom and build up.
There are also many components to creating a website. In this post, we will examine some of the most essential ingredients and elements of a site’s architecture so that you can begin planning your own website build or that of your clients. This post includes both technical and practical components that address systems and specific elements, all which work together to form your virtual skyscraper.
Layer 1: The Foundation
First in the website hierarchy is the foundation. The foundation of your website architecture can be seen as the cornerstone of your website. It is composed of three major sections, which together make up the foundation.
- Concept/purpose – The concept of the website should reflect the business goals and ideas of the business. It should serve as your website’s main focus point. Whether you choose to enter into a particular niche or cover a broad topic, this should be defined from the start.
- Technical makeup – The structure of the website deals with the technical end of how your website works. It includes whether you’ll use a shared server, VPS, or dedicated server, which CDN provider you’ll use, which platform or framework you’ll implement and other technical aspects such as payment processing systems, security applications, etc.
- Content planning – The content that you plan to put on your website should be researched at this stage. Check your competitors to see what they have and think about how you’ll make your content better. People will come to your website for your content so when building your website architecture, remember that the content is one of the most important parts of why you are doing it.
Within the foundation, you should think of how you are going to frame your structure. Think of this as the bottom part of your virtual skyscraper that symbolizes your website. The foundation must include the goals that you have for the website which should reflect you or your client’s goals for their online business.
Layer 2: The Middle Floors
Once you have the foundation of your website, you will want to think about your site’s “middle floors”. These are the things that will improve your visitors’ user experience (UX) and will make the site usable such as links, interactive buttons, etc.
- Design – The physical and creative design of your website architecture is what people see when they come to your page. They may not pay close attention to it as long as it does what it is supposed to do, but you will hear about it if it doesn’t work right. It should be aesthetically pleasing, it should include some of the elements of artistic design, it should be responsive, and it should provide the user with a great user experience. Keep in mind that a flashy website isn’t always the best route to take from a UX standpoint. Learn more about design and perceived performance.
- Landing pages and links – As you start building your landing pages, you’ll want to also start linking to various internal and external pages throughout your website. Be cautious as you build your link profile as you’ll want to keep an eye on any broken links. As we’ve written about before, broken links can increase your bounce rate so it’s important to fix those as soon as possible. Also, have a good mix between Follow and Nofollow links when linking to external resources. This will help improve your own SEO and will give a slight SEO boost to external websites that provide valuable information.
These central aspects are important because they define how customers are able to interact with your site. Users who are more engaged with your site will have a better browsing experience and are more likely to convert or move down your funnel.
Layer 3: The Top Floors
Once you have created your foundation with your concept and structural properties that serve as the basis of your site, and you have checked your middle levels to make sure your design is in order and your links all work, you are ready to build your top floors.
At the top level of your virtual skyscraper are your production process and other peripheral factors that influence its success. This can include your social media platforms, your YouTube channel, blog, and many others. These are factors that influence how you will attract visitors to your site and how you will keep them engaged.
- Blog – Your blog should reflect topics pertaining to your website’s overall purpose. You should use your blog for much of your written content and focus on the information (not sales-oriented) aspect. By providing customers with something of value that you offer free, you may be able to gain their business and loyalty over time.
- Social media – Your social media presence such as Facebook and Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram, are important to maximize your ability to make a bigger impact for your brand. You should include share buttons for your social media from your website so that sharing will be both simple and accessible.
- YouTube and podcasts – Depending on your niche, your content may be more digestible to readers in video or podcast form. If this is the case, make sure your YouTube channel reflects your branding and that your videos and podcasts are both well produced.
- Email and marketing campaigns – Even though your email campaigns and marketing strategies are not an actual part of your website, they are inherently connected to your website architecture. You should always keep in mind how you are going to use your email campaigns and other sales efforts to bring people to your website.
Now that you’ve reached the top floor of your website architecture, this is where you will spend the most time moving forward. Creating valuable content that is relatable to your audience will be a major aspect of your website’s success. Additionally, as you create more and more content it’s crucial to keep an eye on your website performance optimization and not let it fall by the wayside.
The three layers above have given you a good overview of what should be included in your website architecture. However, there are a few more important components which we’ll discuss in a bit more detail in the sections below.
Improving Your Lean UX
Lean UX is a concept that is used by many different tech experts today to refer focussing less on deliverables and rather on the actual user experience itself. You can gain a lot of insight into the success of your UX using some of the following methods:
- Surveys and polls – Using surveys and polling software to gauge your success with your visitors is one way to improve the UX. It provides you with a way to know how well your site is being assessed by your users and gives you feedback on how you might improve it. You should always be aware of how your website is being received by your target audience and adjust it to benefit the most people.
- Customer service emails – If you receive customer service emails about your site, look carefully at any comments that discuss your website or its functionality. Additionally, let your email subscribers know that you’re open to feedback in your send outs.
- Social media mentions – Watch what people are saying about your site and your business and take note of anything related to your site design or functionality. For this, you can use a social media monitoring service such as Mention.
One of the most complicated aspects of your website architecture is the organization of your site. If you plan to build a complex site structure, it is especially important to sort and categorize the various pages on the middle floors of your website. However, as you create more and more content you may have slightly ignored the organizational aspect of your site which can make it harder for users to navigate.
Treejack is a useful tool that may save you some time by providing you with detailed path analysis reports to let you know what’s working and what isn’t.
Without a good, systematic site navigation process in place, your visitors may become confused resulting in them not following the path you hoped for.
Don’t Forget Mobile Users
If you forget to optimize for mobile users it would be the equivalent to leaving the roof of your top floor open. Google has repeatedly reminded us of the importance of creating your site structure to be user-friendly for mobile users as well. Many online hosting servers have tools that you can use to optimize your site that will also benefit your mobile users. Additionally, to further improve performance, implement a mobile CDN.
Website Architecture – Pulling it All Together
When creating the architecture and layout of your site, it would be futile to talk about the structure without talking about the success of your site. Therefore, once you have the three building blocks of your website architecture created, continue providing your visitors with value, optimize for performance, and ensure you listen to your visitors’ feedback. With these values in mind, your website will prosper.