A well structured website requires a fare degree of planning, analysis and in many cases, testing. How your website’s individual pages are linked to one another is particularly important when it comes to search engines begin able to find all pages and sub pages that make up your website quickly and easily.
Let's take a look at some of the elements to consider when building your website structure form scratch.
The taxonomy of also referred to as the navigation. It is essential an ordered map of the pages and content that make up your website.
Starting with the taxonomy when building your website structure helps with understanding all the components and types of content that need to come together and more importantly, helps you arrange them in a logical order. Logical meaning, the sections of your website are grouped together in a way that is meaningful and useful to your visitor and helps eliminate confusion for a user finding their way around.
A great place to start with this is simply with Post-it® Notes or even just pieces of paper or cards. Take a piece of paper and write down the name (title) of every page that will be needed in your website (eg. home, about, services, contact, products, contact, online quote). Once you have done this, lay them out grouping them together in columns so that they are in some logical form and order.
This is the first step in building a taxonomy. Once completed, copy it over to a spreadsheet so you can then start building out further information like page titles, summaries, content type (page or blog post) and meta data (keywords and categories).
What you will end up with is useful data that can be used to start building your website pages and navigation, if you’re starting from scratch. Also create a website folder on your computer so you can begin building and collecting the content for your website. Create a folder for each top level section and then documents within labeled by the page name to make is easy to manage.
You’re now ready to start creating the content for your website.
You have heard it before — Content is king — and it is still king today.
It ‘s content that drives traffic to your website, enables you to influence your Search Engine Optimisation, convert visitors to customers and educate your audience about your products or services.
When it comes to planning the content for your website, take the approach of not hiding anything from your audience and making it as easy as possible to navigate and understand.
The more your audience knows about you, the more likely they are to connect and convert to customers.
Align your content with the taxonomy you created in the previous step. Create a document for each page in your website and save it in a folder labelled the same as the particular section of the website where it will be located.
When writing your content, break down any technical jargon and link to (and reference) any appropriate pages or sections in your website as you go. In-page links to other sections of your website are great for SEO.
Be sure to write with a clear labelling and formatting of headings and structure. Be sure to use heading styles (H1, H2 and H3 etc.) where appropriate and break your copy down into small chunk that are easy for your visitor to digest. Doing so, makes your content easier to scan, something every user of the web has become very well acquainted in doing.
Use lists and bullet content to help the user read, scan and understand your copy and if using images, make sure they support the content and enhance the user experience. Anything else will only prove to be a distraction for a visitor and stand in the way of them taking in the content on the page.
Tip: If a particular section of your website has only a small amount of content to support it, don’t load the page up with unnecessary copy to make it look more than it is. Keep it on its own page and leverage the opportunity to target the specific keyword for that section of the site.
The topic of “design” can be a very subjective one, and rightly so. We all know what we like and don’t like right?
Well, when it comes to designing your website, there a few best practices and considerations you should be aware of and communicate clearly with your designer and developer.
Firstly, let’s take a look at what we are talking about when it comes to “design” and your website.
“Website design” is not just how your website looks, it visual appeal. The design process encompasses:
- Graphic design
- Interface design
- Content authoring
- Website structure
- User experience (UX), and
- User information (UI)
Deciding on a design
The overall design and usability of your website or blog, plays an integral role in its success. Putting the user first in your design decisions is important.
If you’re just starting out you will most likely not be familiar with terms like, User Experience (UX) and Taxonomy (navigation) and that’s ok. However, they are very important factors to consider when deciding on a design for your website or blog.
Let’s look at the high level elements of a blog’s design that you should definitely take into consideration when starting out and how they impact your visitors.
Design considerations for your website and blog
One of the first steps in deciding on a design for your blog is to determine how much and what functionality your blog requires. This will depend on your marketing strategy, use of social profiles and advertising you will want to run. You may want to keep your advertising in the right hand column for example.
If no advertising, you may want to consider a single, one column design for your post pages.
Looking at the layout of your blog, break it down into the following parts:
This typically contains your blog or website logo, menu and search box. The menu should clearly indicate to the visitor how the blogs content is categorised and be easy to understand. If using two levels of menu’s, ensure it is obvious to the visitor why there are multiple levels of navigation.
This is where your content will be located and will typically be full width (100% of the page) or broken up into columns, an inner content area with one or two sidebars.
Make the most of your available sidebar real estate. You would typically find post tags (tag cloud), archives list, promotions and subscribe forms and a search box if you don’t want to have it located in your header.
Your blogs footer can contain as little or as much as you like. Be sure to include any links to your social profiles. You should also include your Twitter feed and contact information as a minimum.
Searching for ideas
A good way to search for ideas is to hit Google and start searching. Search for blogs in similar industries or business and visit their blogs. Take note of things they do that you like and do not like. This can be very subjective of course.
You will most likely want your blog to be very similar in look and feel to your company or business website. This would extend into colours used, typography, fonts, logos, tone of voice and general look and feel. Be sure to let your designer or developer know to what degree the two should align.
When deciding on a design for your blog, you should choose a template of framework that utilises the above four components on each page as a minimum, including the homepage of the blog.
Categorising your content
Categorising your blogs content helps visitors understand how it has been grouped. Tags take these categorisations a step further and make the content more granular and meaningful. A post should be associated to only one category but could have multiple tags. Be sure to include your blogs categories as an influencer on its design and overall visual appeal.
Knowing when to pivot
Don’t be afraid to listen to your visitors and regular readers. Listen to feedback if and when it’s provided about your blog and its layout and design. If visitors are saying there is too much ‘noise’ on the page you may want to look at any advertising or unnecessary images you are using that is distracting to the user.
You won’t always get it right the first time. Choose a design with readability in mind.
When starting out you may choose to experiment with different layouts over a six to twelve month period to find one that suits and that you’re happy with.
Some things to avoid
There are many practices to avoid when designing your website. Such as:
- Using a dark background with light text
- Too many ads
- Using images in posts that look like ads and vice versa
- Not providing a site search
- Too many colors in the design
- Confusing navigation
Once you have found a design that works for both your business and your readers, stick with it. It is easier to focus on writing quality content when you’re not thinking about the design of your website.