Website Structure
The design and development of your website's structure

Website structure and navigation

Now we're going to look at the overall structure of a website. This is different from the individual pages within the site. A website's structure is the framework in which the information or content is presented. It is a distributed network of links that ties your website together. Your website structure is the functional shape of your website in terms of content presentation.

The structure of a site is composed of different sections of content and navigation within those blocks of data. It is the framework that shapes your site and defines your website navigation scheme. If you develop a sound website structure navigation will fall into place naturally. The flow of information through a website must be logical and informative. This is the heart of a robust navigation system.

Basic website structure

For a website to be efficient it's content must be well organized. As the diagram below shows a website's basic structure should be composed of three main website sections: The homepage, the main sections and the subsections, each of which can be easily accessed by the visitor.

Typical basic website structure
Typical basic website structure

This type of website structure enhances the flow of information through it's content. It also provides the webmaster with an easy means of organizing blocks of data within the site. But, most importantly it gives the visitor an easy means of accessing the information they are seeking.

Developing a website network

The structure of a website is like the framework of a building.. Every beam and rivet is connected together into a network of mechanical links, which in turn determines it's final shape and functionality. So should a website be connected through a network of links into something that provides form and function to your site. The website basic layout shown below is a simplified example of such a network.

Website basic layout
Structure of a basic website network

Navigation and website structure

The key to the success of designing your website's structure is the ease with which your visitors can navigate the site and how well they are provided with opportunities for user interaction. A general rule of thumb is that it should take no more than two clicks for a visitor to find what they are looking for when they enter your website.

In the example above there are three tiers of content consisting of the website main sections and subsections. As you can see any area of the website's content can be accessed in two clicks. You can move from the homepage to the main sections with just one click and then one more click will move you into the subsections. This method provides a simple and intuitive path for your visitor. See illustration below.

Diagram of two-step navigation.

Website Designer's Tip:
If necessary you can add a third tier of data. More than that will not only begin to confuse your visitors and complicate your link network it will also impede the deep access of search engine spiders. If your navigation scheme is too complicated it will hinder efforts to optimize your website. Keep it simple!

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