UX Design

A Complete Guide to Engineer Your Website Structure For Your Users

July 2, 2022
Credit to Anna Yashina

Introduction:

Most of the time, business owners focus on perfecting their good or service, and later find themselves wondering what they did wrong when their sales aren’t as high as they expected. Consider a light bulb. Without electricity, the light will not work. If your product is the light bulb, and the website structure and layout, and architecture of information form the electricity. They are instrumental to the success of your good or service.

What a website structure is and why you need it:

“Website structure” simply refers to the set up of the website, and it is absolute lycrucial for your business in many ways.

  • User’s ease: If your user cannot readily find something on your page they will simply go to the page of your competition. They want their needs satisfied in as little time as possible.

There are two types of architectures you can consider for your website design:

  1. Bottom-up approach - This approach refers to a website design that is derived from a thorough understanding of users and their wants.
  2. Top-down approach: This approach refers to the process of designing a website based on a designer’s expertise.

Is there an ideal site structure?

There is an ideal structure which is based on the top-down approach. It can be represented in the pyramid below:

  • Home page - This is at the top of the pyramid and is the fulcrum for the users of your site. By linking popular sites from the home page, designs are able to readily guide users to such pages.
  • Categories - Categories help reduce a user’s time spent on deliberating a decision and helps users make faster and easier decisions.
  • Subcategories - Subcategories are useful for websites with complex data.Consider eBay for example. How on earth would any user manage to buy products without sub-categories.
  • Individual posts and pages - Even when it comes down to individual posts and pages, designers should focus on information architecture to minimise a user’s decision-making time as much as possible.

Types of website structures:

An understanding of website structure will help designers create an effective hierarchy of information relevant for their target users.

 

Hierarchical model  

A commonly used site architecture, the hierarchical model is used for web applications which have large amounts of data. Just like how a tree’s trunk branches out into smaller, finer roots, the hierarchical model has a homepage which branches out into categories, and subsequently pages. CNN’s site (https://edition.cnn.com/) is an epitome of the hierarchical model.

 

Sequential model  

These models take users through a sequence of steps. Unlike hierarchical models where users can jump from a ‘parent’ page to another page, sequential structures only allow for the movement from one step to another.

Matrix model  

The matrix model is an old website structure, and allows users to decide where to go. The below wikipedia screenshot is an excellent example of that.

Database model

A database model is a dynamic way of structuring a website. To create a website structure like this, designers should take a bottom-up approach, taking into account metadata on each page and following strong information architecture and taxonomic best practises. Medium.com, with its posts and pages, is an excellent database model.

So why would you begin with the site structure?

UX designers may construct a website structure that benefits the user rather than hindering them by considering the user's needs first when establishing a design. A solid structure can help increase usability and the overall user experience on a website. Simply said, the structure of a website aids the designer in creating great user experiences by improving discoverability and intuitiveness.