What is website architecture and hierarchy?
Architecture is the structure and layout of information and content on a site. It’s important when designing a website that the end user can find what they are looking for fast and efficiently. This can be achieved by organising a websites content with user-friendly page layouts and a correct structure in the menu and site links.
Hierarchy is prioritising the order that content is displayed on a webpage. Good hierarchy will often display the most important information at the top of the page, with relative information further down the page and in the order of how relative the information is to the topic of the page.
The over all aim here is to guide users through the website while satisfying their reason for being on the site. In this way they are more likely to stay on the site longer and promote it by telling their friends. Let’s break down how to achieve good website architecture into the following categories; metadata, page layout, menu, user experience and URL structure.
Let’s start with the metadata tags because this will be the first stage users will see in the search engine results before they land on the website. The metadata relative to site architecture is the meta title and meta description that is placed in the HTML code. Metadata tells search engines the title of a webpage and the description of its content.
Search engine snippet example:
You can see in the search engine snippet above that the content subject is clearly outlined. If someone is searching for information on how to improve SEO by using their sites architecture and hierarchy, then it is important that the meta title and meta description display the correct words that are relative to or exactly match the webpages content.
The user has clicked on the link in the search results because the metadata matched the information they are looking for and now they have landed on the website. Now it’s important that the user can quickly find the information they are looking for within the page layout and menu.
Page layout and menu
It’s important to define the content subject at the top of the page in the layout so it’s clear to the user that they are in the right place. Let’s say a user is looking for information about website architecture and hierarchy and they land on a website that includes this information half way down the page. The user may go back to the search results and look for another website that more clearly defines what they are looking for. Prioritising the most important subjects of the content using h1 and h2 tags or bold text titles at the top of a page will lower bounce rates and improve a websites status.
Another great way to achieve higher search positions and improve the user experience is by using descriptive keywords in the anchor text links within a website. You will notice some pages on WEB SWIFT SEO contain anchor text links. This helps users to find information on a site easier and also helps search engines define the content of the linked page. Taking advantage of anchor text links is a big positive for improving SEO and user experience!
The users experience
To improve SEO scores and search placements, the most important factor is that a site provides a good user experience. If the user finds what there looking for in the search engine snippet then lands on the website this is a great start. Then if the user spends some time on a webpage and clicks through some of the other pages within the website, its safe to say that they are satisfied with the content. This is an example of providing a high quality user experience that will ultimately be reflected in higher positions in the search results.
When it comes to SEO and UX design the URL structure is a very important part of the website architecture. Top search engines use software called ‘bots’ to crawl and understand a sites content. In the search engine snippet example you will also notice the words architecture and hierarchy in the URL (Uniform Resource Locator). This helps the search engines to understand that the content of this page is related to architecture and hierarchy. It’s a good idea to include some of the most important keywords in the URL.
Another important way to improve the user experience and search grading of a website is by implementing a consistent hierarchy throughout the site. It’s important to define the content by prioritising the most relative keywords at the top of the website layouts.
Search engines and website users will also look at the words at the top of a webpage to read and understand the topics of the content. If a website clearly shows the subject at the top of the page then users are more likely to stay on the page. Search engines also use these words to help decide where it should be placed in the search results. In the example of this webpage I have included the words ‘architecture and hierarchy’ in the meta title and description, the URL, the page title and thought the words. This is a good way to clearly show search engines and users the subject of the content.
Hierarchy in the menu and links can also improve the overall user experience and SEO. Using website categories and sub categories in the navigation is a great way to organise content, which will improve the UX design. In the example of WEB SWIFT SEO I have used five categories each containing links to related articles. The related articles are in sub categories to one of the five parent category pages. This will make it easier for the search engines to crawl, understand and display in the search results. There is also a user site map link at the bottom of each page in the footer menu to help users find all the information on the website. Having a clear and efficient navigation throughout a site is one of the most important factors that is often over looked by web designers. It’s especially important on websites with more than ten pages.