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Home / Design, Develop, Deploy! / Website Structure Explained

Website Structure Explained

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A Guide to Web Site Structure

1. Introduction

No web site design can be completed until the page structure of the site is established and agreed between the client and the web designer. The structure will dictate the names of the navigation buttons and the linking between the various pages on the web site. Getting the structure right will go a long way to ensuring the visitor enjoys a good experience on the site and therefore wants to do business with the site owner.

The structure of the site should make it possible for the designer to create a logical and easy to follow navigation system to permit the visitor to reach the content they want to see quickly and reliably. It should also make it easy to add fresh content, particularly news items or new products/services, without major change to the graphic design of the site.

NetSecrets produce a wide range of web sites, ranging from simple 4 or 5 page online brochures to major ecommerce sites with hundreds of pages and sophisticated facilities. Despite this the basics of good site structure apply to both ends of the scale and this document sets out to explain these basics to assist clients in working with our designers to achieve the best results possible for their online business.

2. Home Page

Every web site has a home page. It is the first page most visitors will see and is also the most important page for attaining good search engine rankings, as search engines give more weight to its content than to any other page. It should confirm to the visitor unambiguously what your site is about, what your products or services are and how to use the facilities on the site. It should link to every page on the site wherever possible and every page should link back to the home page.

3. Contact Details

A top level page should generally be included to lay out the various methods of making contact with you. The internet is an impersonal medium so it makes visitors comfortable if they can see a way to phone you or fax you. If people visit your premises this page can also include directions, maps, opening hours, etc.

4. Online Enquiry Form

In most instances web sites should include an online enquiry form at the top level of the navigation system. This makes it easy for visitors to ask questions, request quotations or sales literature or tell you how great they think your site is.

5. Products/Services Page(s)

A major part of the site refers to the products and/or services your business offers. Some sites offer just products, e.g. saucepans, ink cartridges, domain names or diesel generators; other sites just offer services, e.g. web design, hypnotherapy, pensions advice or seismic surveys; and some offer both products and services. Some sites sell a single product or service and others several thousand.

Whichever category your site falls into the basic principles should apply to a large degree. These pages should concisely and accurately describe what you have to offer, help the visitor choose between alternatives and make it as easy as possible for them to buy (on an ecommerce-enabled site) or take their interest further if the site does not provide online ordering.

Although a single page can suffice for this, particularly if there are small numbers of products or services on offer, there will usually be a hierarchy of pages in this section. Imagine a site selling computer equipment. The top level products page might summarise the types of equipment on offer. This might then link to a page on desktop PC's, then another on laptop PC's, a third on peripherals and a fourth on software. There might also be a services page linking to subsequent pages on installation, call-outs and maintenance contracts.

The second level pages might link to a third level, e.g. peripherals might break down into printers, scanners and webcams. Printers might then break down into laser printers and inkjet printers, and so on. The further down the hierarchy you go the more likely the content and structure is to change as new products arrive and old ones are removed. We will always ensure that the navigation system will cater for this.

6. Information Pages

Information pages provide the visitor with background information rather than product- or service-specific details. These pages are used to establish your credentials as a company the visitor wants to spend money with, and usually offer frequently updated content that give the visitor a reason to come back to your site repeatedly. They also provide content for search engines to index thereby enhancing your position in search engine rankings.

The top level information page will usually provide links to some or all of the following:

  • About Us/Company Profile: company history, mission statement, key personnel, position in the market place, memberships of trade or professional bodies.
  • Links: other sites of interest to your visitors, link exchanges with complementary but noncompeting businesses, links to trade or professional organisations.
  • Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ's): establishes your expertise in your field of business.
  • Testimonials: establishes your reputation.
  • Case Studies: real life examples of clients benefiting from your expertise. These should be added frequently, not less than one per quarter.
  • Newsletters: news items, major orders won, new products, industry news. Again should be added to once per quarter as minimum.
  • Downloads/Resources: price lists, order forms, maps and directions, product data sheets, application forms, etc.

7. Sample Sites

Sites that illustrate the points made above can be accessed from our web site portfolio page by clicking here.

These examples are by no means exhaustive but are a starting point. If you want to discuss site structure in more detail contact the NetSecrets design team.

8. Conclusion

A clear and logical site structure will help the site succeed in gaining new prospects and clients for your business by ensuring visitors get to the information they want with a minimum of effort. Once the structure is agreed the site's graphic design can be finalised and you will easily identify what content is required for the pages defined.

A further document is provided by NetSecrets to assist in producing the words and images needed to complete the web site.

We hope you find this document helpful. If you have any suggestions for improvements please let us know.

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