Reliable Site Architecture Leads To Better User Experience

Site  Architecture refers to how  you have positioned your pages for Search Engines or people to find.  This also talks about how easy it is for a user to find the page by clicking links on the page. The better your architecture, the easier it is for people to get to your money pages faster.  So what kind of architecture works best for your site?

I’d like to list out a few points to keep in mind when you design your eCommerce or other site.

Site Hierarchy is quite important because users have an easier time of finding pages if they are where users expect them to be.  You must keep the hierarchy in mind while designing your site.

Site Architecture Website Menu Layer

Site Architecture Website Menu Layer

  1. Site Navigation must be as intuitive as possible. Eye tracking software have established that users read from left to right and top to bottom. So, the most important links must be placed on the top horizontal menu bar – going from left to right in decreasing order of importance.
  2. For category based menus, a left column is the most beneficial. This is also important with a view to improving the Search Engine Optimization for your site.
    Site Architecture Design Menu

    Example of a category based left column menu.

  3. It is preferable to have 2 or 3 different menus. Menu 1 would be along the top from left to right with links to different important pages on the site such as About Us, Return Policy, Shipping etc.
    WebSite Architecture

    Images shows multiple menu layers- each layer used for a different purpose.

  4. Menu 2 would be from top to bottom on the left hand side with list of categories. This could also be just underneath the main navigation menu.  An extra feature you could provide is an automatically expanding menu that shows the subcategories inside each category as the user hovers over the menu .. as the image below shows.Site Architecture overview
  5. Menu 3 could be another menu with user-specific menu items such as Login, Signup/Register, My Account, My Cart , My Wishlist etc. This is normally placed above the Main Menu on the top right hand side corner – on par with the name and logo of the site.
  6. All pages on the site must be reachable from the home page within  a maximum of two clicks.
  7. The farther they are away from the home page, the less chance the user will find the page.
  8. Also search engines tend to discount the pages for ranking as they move away from the home page.
  9. In some cases, it may be advisable to link a page from multiple category menu items. For example, a page about Jumping Weekly Subscriptions may be reachable both from Jumping Publications menu as well as Subscriptions menu.
  10. A breadcrumb is a device to help the user understand the structure of a page in the site. Using a breadcrumb, the user can click on any of the intermediate pages and directly browse to such page. Please note that the  image below – though a good example of breadcrumbs, goes contrary to Point # 6 above.Site Architecture using bread crumbs
  11. A footer link section is quite commonly used now.  This section is primarily found on the home page where all internal pages are linked directly from the home page. This is mostly for the benefit of the Search Engines as users rarely if ever browse to the bottom of a page.
  12. As far as common navigational elements across pages are concerned, most advanced technologies have some sort of master-content pages arrangement so that you can create the navigation once and use it multiple times. Make sure you are not recreating the same code on multiple pages.  This means, there will be only one code set for header, navigation menus and footer of the site.

Remember that having a reliable site architecture leads to better user experience.  Related article: Developing A Website Pricing Strategy!

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