Web site structure.
A much neglected area of website design is that of structure. In the same way that a well structured essay will aid the reader a well structured web site will aid visitors, search engines and the maintenance of the web site.
Visitors will benefit from well thought out structure as navigation will come naturally. Related items will be grouped together in a way that logically allows visitors to follow from one related item to another. For example; visitors to a section of a web site dedicated to information about television sets will be most interested in information about other television sets. These items could then be sub-categorised further by either features, or manufacturers. By using simple and obvious sub-menus to link these related items together will encourage and promote views of these pages.
Search engines such as google like well organised sites that group related content into discrete sets. Pages that link to lots of related content on a similar subject within your site will have the key topic reinforced by the inclusion of the sub-pages. This concept is known within the webmaster community as "themes". It basically means that a section of a site that contains a large amount of information on a given topic will have more importance than a single page on another site on the same topic. The site is judged as a whole, the context of each page is taken into consideration.
A well thought out structure will make maintenance easier. New pages will automatically have a place to go within the existing site. Expansion of the site is easier as new sections can be added by changing the master menu (the main menu on the first page of the site).
The essence of structuring your site is to categorise the planned content into sections. In most cases this can breakdown into information, products or services, news or press releases. Though this obviously will differ depending on the circumstances and the goal of your site.
An example of this in action can be seen on Norfolk Artists. Norfolk Artists is a site that contains several artists work of different types. The organisation of the site includes to main categories, artists, and galleries. The galleries breakdown further into subsections such as landscape or abstract. The individual artworks themselves are found at this level.
The directory structure and the link structure mirror each other to show the levels in which pages can be found. By using this technique the Landscape Gallery now serves as a central linking page for everyone of the Landscape artworks. As the number of paintings included within the site increases the categories will be further divided into other subsections.
The directory structure is used as follows;
This means that the /Gallery/Landscapes/ index page will now be given additional importance due to the inclusion of many related pages.
A good structure is easier to design and implement when first thinking about your site and should help dictate the organisation of menus and pages, which in turn helps the structure or layout of your individual pages. In many ways the structure of your site is more important than things like the colour scheme and look and feel, ultimately it will have more impact and be more difficult to change at a later stage. Time spent planning the site structure now will reap rewards long after the development of the website is completed.